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Ephesians 4:17-24


Intro: In the first phrase of verse 17, there is a word that beckons to focus our attention backward. It is the word “therefore.” Anytime you see “therefore” in the Bible, you should stop and see what it is “there for

 This word calls our minds back to what Paul has been teaching us about our high calling in Christ Jesus. Because we have been given all the benefits mentioned in verses 1-16, we are not to be like the lost, pagan Gentiles who live around us. What benefits is Paul talking about?

•  Our calling to “salvation by grace” through faith, vv. 1-3.

•  Our unity in the body of Christ, vv. 3-6.

•  Our unique gifting by the Holy Spirit to serve the Lord and His church for His glory, vv. 7-10.

•  Our being built up through the ministries of gifted individuals in the church, vv. 11-16.

 Because we have been given all these advantages, and made the partaker of such gifts from God, we are to walk in a manner that is different from the world around us.

 In the verses that are before us today, we are called to A New Walk For A New LIfe. Paul issues some very specific challenges for all those who are saved. These challenges teach us how we are to walk, and how we are to be different from those who have not been saved. Let’s take some time to talk about these challenges as we think about A New Walk For A New LIfe.

   I.  V. 17-19  BE DIFFERENT

We who have been saved, are no longer like we were. We are “new creatures” in Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 5:17. As a result of the “new birth,” we are not what we used to be. And we can no longer live like we used to live. We have been changed. Thus, we are different from the world around us. Paul’s challenge here is to mark the differences between the children of God and the children of the devil. We are to mark those distinctions between the saved and the lost, and we are to be different. Here, Paul note three specific problems that plague the lost.

A.  V. 17c  There Is A Problem With Their Heads - Paul says the lost “walk in the vanity of their minds.” The word “vanity” means “futility, emptiness, that which is wasted on nothing.” The lost live empty lives because their minds are corrupted by the inborn sin that dwells within them. Thus, every thought is corrupted by evil.  

The lost mind invents ways to serve the flesh, or the selfish desires of the mind. The lost mind invents false gods, false religions, and foolish philosophies that are designed to showcase man’s brilliance. Yet, the inventions of the lost mind are empty of anything helpful, and they ultimately damning to the soul of man. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of deathPro. 16:25.  

In another passage, Rom. 1:28, Paul tells us that the lost possess a “reprobate mind.” This refers to a “depraved mind.” This word us was used to describe metals that were tested and rejected by refiners because they were too impure. The word came to mean “useless and worthless.”  

So, the unbeliever has a problem in his mind. His mind is “depraved” and it is capable of producing nothing but thoughts that are “useless and worthless.” Because we are saved, we are to be different!  

B.  V. 18  There Is A Problem With Their Hearts - Paul says “their understanding is darkened,” and they are “alienated from the life of God,” “through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” The word “blindness” refers to “stubbornness.” It speaks of a heart confronted with truth, but which refuses to embrace that truth. It is what Paul refers to in Romans 1:18, when he mentions those “who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The word “hold” in that verse means to “oppress.” It speaks of those hear the truth, and know the truth, but who refuse to acknowledge and embrace the truth.  

Because of the stubbornness of their hearts, they are separated from the life that could be their’s in Jesus Christ, and they remain trapped in the darkness and depravity of their condition. Whether we like it or not, the lost are “dead in trespasses and sins,” Eph. 2:1. The human race did not merely get sick when Adam sinned, it died, Rom. 5:12. In that dead an depraved state, the lost live for nothing but to gratify the lusts of the flesh and the mind, Eph. 2:2-3.  

In this state, their “understanding is darkened.” The phrase is a “perfect participle.” This means that the lost live in “a continuing state of spiritual darkness and ignorance” toward the things of God. Thus, since they are dead, they are unresponsive to the things of God. They are like a cold, immobile corpse, which can neither see, hear, feel, or think. They are dead because they are “alienated from the life of God.” They are unmoved by the truth. They are unfazed by matters of right and wrong. They love the dark, and they pursue the works of darkness.  

Because we are saved, we are to be different! Because we are saved, the very life of God defines us and empowers us. We are not dead to truth, but we love the truth, and long to live it out daily. We are not in darkness as is the world, but we “walk in the light, as He is in the light,” 1 John 1:7. We are not like them, so we must not be like them!  

C.  V. 19  There Is A Problem With Their Hands - Because the lost are “dead,” they are said to “be past feeling.” That phrase means that they “have lost their sense of pain.” It is used in the sense of not being bothered in their conscience by the things they do. They are like the leper who suffers horrible disfigurement and loss of fingers, toes and other extremities because their ability to feel pain is taken away. Thus, they do no know they have been hurt, and their injuries fester and destroy their lives.  

The lost sinner commits his life to evil, and as he does, he loses his sensitivity toward sin. This leads them to ever deepening levels of wickedness. They yield their lives to “lasciviousness.” This word speaks “of wanton sensuality.” It is an attitude that says, “I will do what I please, when I please, with whom I please, and I don’t care what anyone says or thinks about it.” It is a life given over to open sin.  

Thus the sinner “works all uncleanness.” The word “work,” means “to work hard, to take pains, to do your best.” “Uncleanness” speaks of “impurity and rottenness.” This idea here is that the lost person works hard at his sinning. He gives himself actively to the pursuit of rottenness. He does his best to be as bad as he can be. What an accurate description of our world! The lost all around us work themselves to death in the pursuit of their pleasure; never realizing that their wickedness, and corruption is doing nothing but increasing their guilt in the eyes of a holy God. They are “past feeling,” and they don’t care!  

And, they do all this with “greediness.” This simply means that he does what he does for self-gratification. In other words, he is his own god, and he lives to worship himself. His worship of self involves gratifying all the base, evil desires of the flesh and the mind. They give themselves over to the lusts that drive them. They do it for their own benefit, never stopping to consider the truth that their endless of pursuit of wickedness will end wit them in Hell for all eternity!  

That is how the lost live; the saints of God are to be different!  

  I.  Be Different  


While we are to avoid being like the lost, we are to strive to be like the Lord. Having told us what we should not be, Paul now teaches us what we should be.

A.  Christ is Our Example - The lost are motivated by theirs lusts; we are to be motivated by the Lord. Paul hold Jesus Christ up against the backdrop of the sinfulness and wickedness of this lost world, and the contrast could not be greater.  

The phrase “learned Christ” refers to being saved. As I have already said, when He saved us, He changed us. He made us like Himself, and delivered us from being like the world. Fulfilling the sins of the flesh is no longer our creed and standard of living; Jesus is! He is our example. We are not to allow the flesh and its base, wicked desire to control us any longer, but we are to take Jesus for our example and we area to walk in holiness and in the newness of life.  

When a person claims to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and still lives like the world, they are either deceiving themselves, or they are a liar. Listen to the Word of God:

•  “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of GodJames 4:4.

•  “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” 1 John 2:3–6.  

The born-again believer strives to be like Jesus, discerning the way He walked from what the Bible teaches and by how the Spirit of God leads within. This produces a life that is vastly different from the life lived in sin. This results in a life that is pleasing to the Father, and one that emulates Jesus Christ in the world. It is the fulfillment of Phil. 2:5, which says, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”  

B.  Christ Is Our Educator - The redeemed are no longer ignorant and trapped in the death and delusion of their sins. The redeemed have heard His voice. They have been taught His truth. They have been brought out of death into life. They have been placed on a different path. They have been taught, and as a result, they have been changed by the power of God.  

When Christ came to us, He brought with Him knowledge and truth. He taught us the truth about God, Himself, His Spirit, Heaven, Hell, Sin, Salvation, life, death, grace, faith, righteousness, eternity, judgment, the purpose of life, the meaning of life, creation, history, and everything else that matters. We are no longer in the dark, but we now walk in the light! Jesus has taught us truth,  John 16:13, and His truth has made us free, John 8:32.  

Consider this: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life1 John 5:20.  

So, we are to be different from the lost world around us. We are to be discerning and learn all that we can from the Lord Jesus Christ.  

  I.  Be Different

 II.  Be Discerning  


Since have been changed by the power of God, and since we have been taught the truth about God and Christ, we are to make some active changes in our own lives. The three actions Paul mentions in these three verses, “put offv. 22; “be renewedv. 23; “put onv. 24, are not commands for the believer, They are actually statements of fact. Each of these statements refer to what the Lord did in us when He saved us. We are reminded of what He did so that we can every step to ensure that each of these conditions is an active reality in our lives day by day.

A.  V. 22  There Is Something To Renounce - The phrase “put off” means “to strip away.” It is the image of taking off clothes. The old man is dirty, corrupt and filthy. He was “stripped off,” when we are converted. We are to be sure that he remains “stripped off.”  

The old man of sin remains alive and well within each of us, Gal. 5:16-18; Rom. 7:14-25. He is “deceitful” and filled with “lust,” and he is growing ever more “corrupt.” The old nature is like “a corpse rotting in the sun.” It grows more vile, more evil and more wicked every day. If we are not careful, he will enslave us in old habits and ways of living that the Lord delivered us from when He saved us.  

The Roman were known to take a murderer and stake him down to the ground. They would then place the body of his victim on top of him, face to face, hand to hand, and foot to foot. As the corpse rotted, corruption would eat into the murderer and destroy his life. That is the way the flesh operates. It’s depravity eats into our lives, and if it is not kept under control, it will destroy our lives!  

We must be decisive each day and “reckon” the old man dead to sin, but ourselves alive to God, through our union with Jesus Christ, Rom. 6:11.  

B.  V. 23  There Is Something To Renew - The lost sinner has a mind that is given over to vanity, or futility. The sinner’s mind gives itself over to things that are empty of value and result in judgment and Hell. The saint of God, on the other hand, is to walk with a “renewed mind  

When the Lord saved us, He made us alive in Christ, John 5:24; Eph. 2:4-5. Part of that new life involves a renewing of the mind. Our dead minds that were given over to vanity were made alive, and we were enabled to think differently. We are to walk each day having our minds renewed by the Word of God and by the Spirit of God.  

The fact that God literally changed our minds when He saved us gives us the ability to live different lives from the world around us. The Christian life begins in the mind! When the thinking is changed, the life is changed. When our minds are set on things above and not on the things of this world, our lives will follow the direction of the mind. Thus, we should strive each day to fulfill Rom. 12:2, which says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  

If we can ever get our minds right, our lives will be right. It is our thinking that either sets us on the right path, or puts us on the path to trouble. In the end, everything comes back to how you think about it. If the mind is right, the rest of the life will follow the course set by the mind. The mind of the lost man will lead him ever farther away from God, and ever deeper into sin. The mind of the saved man, however, will lead him ever closer to God, and ever deeper in holiness.  

We must be decisive and take control of the mind. Listen to what he Bible says about this matter.

•  “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:3–5.

•  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,” Phil. 4:8.  

C.  V. 24  There Is Something To Reveal - Just as we are to “strip off” the old man of sin, we are to “put on” the new man who is “created in righteousness and true holiness.” This new, holy man was born in us when we were saved. When he was created, we were given the ability to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord. When He saved us, He made us a “new creature,” 2 Cor. 5:17. This “new creature” loves the Lord, and he loves the things of God. He desires to serve the Lord, and he has been empowered to walk in the will of the lord for the glory of God. Our responsibility is to let this man out.  

Paul says that “the new man, which after God is created.” This phrase literally means that the new man “was made in the likeness of God.” When Adam sinned int he Garden of Eden, he marred the image of God in which he had been created. He passed his sin and his warped nature down to all his offspring. When we were saved, we were recreated in the likeness of God Himself. Praise God, we are made “partakers of the divine nature,” 2 Pet. 1:4. This new man is literally “Christ Who lives in me,” Gal. 2:20.  

We are not yet perfect, but we have been changed. We haven been given all that we need to live lives of “righteousness and true holiness” before the Lord. Thus, we must actively yield ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord within us and allow Him to walk in us day by day, Gal. 2:20.  

We must no longer walk in the rags of our sins. We must decisively “put off the old man of sin” and “put on the new man” who is made “in the likeness of God  

Conc: How are you doing in this business of being different, discerning and decisive? Can you honestly say that you are living a life that is different from the world around you? Can you honestly say that your life displays Jesus Christ to the world?  

•  If you are like me and you need help with your mind, the place to find help is in the Lord.

•  If you are like me and you need help putting off the old man and putting on the new man, the place to find help is in the Lord.

•  If it has dawned on you that you are lost and trapped in the deadness, darkness and depravity of your sins, the place to find help is in the Lord.  

There is not a person in this room who does not need to talk to the Lord about the truth contained in this passage of Scripture. I invite you to do just that right now!


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