by Mike Ratliff
17 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, 18 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; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NKJV)
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 35 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 Bible teacher in our 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 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. 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 we must ask ourselves, “Isn’t this a problem?” Yes, Christians can live as if this new life in Christ never happened.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV)
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 beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
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, emergent church, NAR, Joel Osteen, Jay Bakker, Stephen Furtick, et cetera. 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, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 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. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:25-32 (NKJV)
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 filled with the spirit.
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:15-21 (NKJV)
We must pray for God to help us do this. He will only do this in us as we take up our crosses daily and follow our Lord 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.
World English Bible (WEB)
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