Friday, November 6, 2015

I Deny the Impact of the Past

The Bible was written to be lived out, and not just read or studied. The Apostle Paul wrote to the letter to the Ephesian church to help them see what Christ had done for them and how they should live. Each person who believes in Jesus was called to walk in a new way, putting away the old life.


By the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to rewrite and replace our old story with God’s story. The things that we have in our past can damage our relationships with God and others. As we look at Paul’s writing to the Ephesians, let's take the time to reflect on where God has brought us from in our lives.


As we think about what Jesus is changing about us, it helps us to develop a mindset that reflects the life of Jesus Christ in us. We must become aware of what negative influences and voices from our past still speak into our lives today. Only then can we shut those influences down and choose to listen to the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind this wise counsel:


Watch your thoughts, they become words.

Watch your words, they become actions.

Watch your actions, they become habits.

Watch your habits, they become your character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.


What is one limiting belief or negative pattern from your past that you are holding onto, negatively impacting your relationship with God? We can be blind to the things in our lives that negatively affect our relationship with God. We often only see what we want to see.


One lady was talking about her friend who went on a blind date. The friend who set her up on the date gushed about how handsome and friendly the guy was. However, on the date, she discovered that he had ended his third marriage, filed for bankruptcy, and was hooked on gambling.


She called her friend after the date. She was offended that her friend thought she would be interested in this guy. The matchmaker said, “But he is really handsome and friendly.”[1]


This is how we look at our own lives sometimes. We only see what is on the surface. We don’t dig down deep to understand the way we tick. We fail to look for those things that are hold-overs from our life before Christ.


John Ortberg said, “Deep change takes more than willpower. It requires God renewing our minds. It requires surrender.”[2]


In this message, I want to point out from Paul’s writing fundamental changes that God is working out in the lives of Christians.  Knowing that we cannot focus on every detail, Paul helps us by focusing on the main changes Jesus makes in us as we grow in the faith. Live your life on purpose, guiding by God’s Word instead of just letting life happen.


1. Christians walk differently than the world.

Ephesians 4:17 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.


We are not to “walk” the way the world walks. The people in this world who are apart from Jesus Christ are dead in their sins and trespasses. They are dead men walking. Your walk is your pattern of life. We are to walk in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4), love, unity, and purity. We do not walk in the ways of this world.


2. Christians think differently than society.

Ephesians 4:18-19 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.


Salvation begins with repentance. Repentance is a change of mind. When you turn from the past to Jesus Christ, you decide to think differently. You give up self-centered, purposeless thinking. You put on the mind of Jesus Christ.


Some people think they are intellectual or enlightened because they reject God and the Bible. However, those who reject God have become fools. Satan has blinded their minds to the truth. They simply cannot see the spiritual nose in front of their face.


3. Christians act differently than they once did.

Ephesians 4:20-24 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.


Christians do not act the same as unbelievers. If a person has actually experienced the miracle of being raised up from spiritual death, then his heart will want what God wants. He will desire to live out the righteousness of God instead of lusting for the things of this world. The old person is put away. A new identity is assumed. A new citizenship has been established.


·         Christians tell the truth.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.


“A lie is a statement that is contrary to fact, spoken with the intent to deceive. If I tell you it is noon, and then discover that my watch is wrong, I did not tell you a lie. But if I gave you the wrong time so you would be late to a meeting, and I would benefit from it, that would be a lie.”[3]


Satan is a liar (John 8:44). Lies are his native language. Some people lie to their family, those in their lives, and themselves. Christians, to the contrary, are called to live by God’s truth. The first sin that was judged by God in the early church was the sin of lying (Acts 5:1-11).


·         Christians settle their disputes.

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.


Forgiveness, like grieving, requires you to work through emotions. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you exercise the grace of forgiveness.

o   Don’t wait for the other person to apologize.

o   Find a confidential ally to share your feelings with rather than carrying a grudge.

o   Understand it is not necessary to forget to forgive.

o   Forgiveness is not a once and for all act. On many occasions, you must forgive several little things in the process.

o   Think about how God has forgiven you.

Jesus said, “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). 


When Satan pinpoints a Christian with anger in his heart, he does what he can to stoke the fire and to damage the church. I would guess that most murders involve relatives and friends who get into arguments. Someone brandishes a weapon, and it ends badly. 


·         Christians are generous.

Ephesians 4:28 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.


Paul was a hard worker. He made tents as he planted churches and developed leaders. Every Jewish Rabbi was taught a trade in his day. It was said among rabbis, “If you do not teach your son a trade, you teach him to be a thief.”[4] The reason we work is not to get ahead and make a lot of money. The purpose of abundance is to share with anyone in need.


·         Christians speak life into others.

Ephesians 4:29-32  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.


The word “corrupting” in the original language has the connotation of rotten fruit. Christians use their speech to build others up, not tear them down. Our language is to be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).


One of the sources of destructive language is bitterness. We don’t need bitterness in the church today; we need betterness. Bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit. It grieves God’s heart. When we do not forgive others, we become bitter. Bitterness sabotages our growth. Bitter Christians do not live out the calling of Jesus Christ.


One of the most powerful things one can do to eradicate bitterness is to let go of the need to be right. Georgia Shaeffer said, “Realize that sweet, kind, good people are just as likely to justify their poor choices as people who are mean and filled with heat. Once you understand it’s natural to want to justify a poor choice, be gentle rather than judgmental of those in your life.”[5]


The Bible says, “Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Would anyone like to be favored by God? Put down your pride. Humble yourself. Put on a new set of clothes.


“In the movie The Weather Man, the main character, played by Nicolas Cage shows what happens when we fail to attend to what’s most important to us: We one day find ourselves far from where we wanted to be. In a final scene, Nicolas Cage is walking on a dreary city street as he reflects back on his life. He says, ‘I remember once . . . imagining what my life would be like, what I’d be like. I pictured having all these qualities. Strong, positive qualities . . . that people could pick up on from across the room. But as time passed . . . few ever became any qualities I actually had. And all the possibilities I faced, and the sorts of people I could be . . . all of them got reduced every year to fewer and fewer . . . until finally they got reduced to one  . . . to who I am. And that’s who I am . . . the weather man.”[6]


What about your life? What will your life and relationships look like in the future? What qualities are you allowing God to develop in your life?


Author Stephen Covey reminds us that we should live now with the ending in mind. “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction. . . . We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.”[7]

[1]Georgia Shaeffer, Avoiding the 12 Relationship Mistakes Women Make (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2014), 150.
[2]John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 65.
[3]Warren Wiersbe, TBEC, Vol. 2 (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), 40.
[4]Wiersbe, 42.
[5]Shaeffer, 80.
[6]Ibid., 151.
[7]Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Fireside, 1989), 98.