by Mike Ratliff
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. (Ephesians 4:17-19 ESV)
The vast majority of professing Christians in the United States and in other countries, whose churches are patterned after American churches, are enslaved to their flesh. Why? The trend that I have witnessed in our churches for at least the last 25 years or so is a de-emphasis of discipleship. Evangelism or outreach has crowded out in-reach and Bible study. Why? Church growth has become the golden calf of the new evangelism. Because of that, church leaders strive to be culturally relevant even if it means dummying down the Gospel and no longer putting any resources into biblical discipleship.
The cost for doing this is extremely high. Biblical ignorance is rampant. Because of that, few believers know how to rightly divide God’s Word and this makes them susceptible to false doctrine and dynamic leaders who are mere hirelings instead of true shepherds of the flock. As a result, believers walk in ignorance of how they are meant to walk through this life. I remember a teacher in a former church sometime in the late 1980’s telling us that the Beatitudes were unattainable in this life for believers. This teacher told us that the ultra-high standards Christ set in His Sermon on the Mount were indications of how we would live in the Millennium. I suppose I sat under some very sound Bible teachers when I was young Christian because I learned what expository preaching was and how important it was to the health of the Church. I had been a Christian for only a couple of years at that time and I believed him. It wasn’t until I learned to study the Bible myself that the Holy Spirit showed me the truth.
I also learned what Exegesis was as opposed to Eisegesis when studying and applying text from the Bible. In a Biblical theological sense, the term Exegesis is used to delineate an approach to interpreting Biblical passages using critical analysis. In its contemporary use, the term means a critical interpretation of text, regardless if it is Biblically-based or not. Properly conducted exegesis includes utilizing several things in order to arrive at what the Biblical writer is attempting to convey. It includes understanding the context of a particular set of verses and comparing them with other Scriptures, along with applying what is unknown about the customs extant at the time of writing. In short, it means to try and pull from a passage its inherent meaning. Eisegesis is the opposite of exegesis, which is an approach to interpreting a Bible passage by reading into it a meaning that is not evident at all by the passage. Why is that important?
I was in a discussion with a professing Christian not long ago who absolutely rejects all “Theology” because he sees it as something from man. I went after that of course and pinned him to the wall about what then is truth and how can we know it. He flat out told me that God reveals His truth directly to those He wants to both verbally and through experience, but forget all about these creeds and confessions and studying theology stuff. He kept touting a book by Frank Viola titled Pagan Christianity. I told him that I was acquainted with Mr. Viola and that after I had reviewed a book he had coauthored with Leonard Sweet titled The Jesus Manifesto, Frank wrote on his blog that I did not know the difference between the truth and Biblical Exegesis. After I said that this fellow got a confused look on his face as I kept using the words “exegesis” and “exegetical” as I tore down his arguments. He then asked me what “exegesis” was. He had never heard that term before. Can you now see what the root of the problem is my brethren?
The new life in Christ is a reality for those who walk according to the Spirit instead of according to the flesh. Those who are enslaved to their flesh walk in the futility of their minds, which are darkened in their understanding. Since they are mired in sins of the flesh they are separated from fellowship with God. Their hearts are hard, being calloused over because they are enslaved to their lusts, uncleanness and greed. When professing Christians see Church services on Sunday as something that interferes with them being home in time to watch NFL Football on Sunday afternoons then there is a huge problem there. Yes, Christians can live as if this new life in Christ never happened.
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 4:20-24 ESV)
Notice that the Apostle Paul tells us in this passage that there are professing Christians who have never met Jesus and, therefore, are not regenerate and have not learned Christ by the working of God in their hearts. However, genuine Christians did and do learn Christ by hearing Him and being taught in Him. Genuine Christians know fully well that there is a dividing line separating their lives before salvation and after. There is a former way of life and new life in Christ. This new life in Christ is maintained and grows deeper by being renewed in the spirit of the believer’s mind. By this renewal, he or she puts on their new man who is in the likeness of God and is justified and holy in His eyes.
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
How do believers become renewed in the spirit of their minds? Look at Romans 12:1-2. It must begin by walking through each day as a living sacrifice. This means that believer’s lives should be walked before the face of God as an act of genuine worship in spirit and in truth. It begins there and it involves not being conformed to this world and its ways, but by continually seeking mind renewal. What does this mean? It means that we must seek the face of God in all that we do. If you desire to seek some fleshly pleasure that you know is contrary to what a Christian should be involved in then that is the opposite of Christian mind renewal.
Instead of polluting your mind with fleshly pursuits, seek God. Read your Bible. Listen to godly preaching, not sermons from the new evangelism or the emergent church. Let God direct your paths into what to study instead of doing what is “popular” with the masses. If we will do this then our minds will be transformed as the Holy Spirit works in our Hearts to direct our paths and God the Father prunes us. This is abiding in Christ in the strength of His joy. By living this way we will learn the will of God and we will know how to obey Him.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV)
Have you ever wondered where the strength and discipline comes from that would enable you to live this way? This comes from a life that is a living sacrifice. This believer is constantly renewing his or her mind and is abiding in Christ. God is working in his or her heart and because of that, he or she can have righteous anger and not sin. Coarse language is something from the past. Instead, this believer is meek and in control. Bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry and slander may be what marked their walk before, but now he or she is kind to others, tenderhearted and forgiving. Christlikeness is growing in this believer. Christ’s very character is becoming manifest in them. They do not repay evil for evil. Instead, they forgive and move on. This Christian is walking in the new life because he or she is spirit-filled.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)
We must pray for God to help us do this. He will only do this in us as we submit to Christ’s Lordship in all parts of our lives. This isn’t just stuff going on in our hearts and minds. This is something real that produces fruit. We must remember that the fruit does not cause our spiritual growth and obedience. It is the other way around. The fruit is evidence of God working in us as we draw near to Him in cooperation with Him in our sanctification. I pray that you and I will live out our lives this way for His glory alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!