Lawlessness? I was told the law didn't matter anymore! I was told that was Old Testament! This cannot be happening! Oh beloved, there most definitely is a price to be paid for engaging in superficial Christianity. You may end up being churched right into hell. The Bible says that only the Gospel has the power unto the salvation of men. Not a cool sounding band. Not a slick speaking preacher. Not a mega church that may even do great temporal works in this world. Only the Gospel. So when you start with a compromised gospel, you end up with a compromised salvation. Paul understood this when he said goodbye to the Ephesian elders:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. - Acts 20: 26-27 (ESV)
Paul knew he was innocent of their blood because he did not hesitate to declare the whole counsel of God! The whole Gospel! Not just the portions that appeal to our flesh. Not just the portions we all like to hear. But the whole counsel. The whole counsel of God includes the part about how we are sinners before a holy God in desperate need of a Savior. Without that you are not saved. Without understanding who you are and who God is, you merely end up as a double clothed Christian.
For a better understanding of what a double clothed Christian is, let us turn to the key verses for today. From the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, we see Paul addressing the believers in Ephesus of what their new life in Christ is supposed to be like and how they were supposed to arrive there. He draws a distinct line between how someone who is unsaved walks and someone who has been born again. He describes the unsaved as being darkened in their understanding; alienated from a life with God due to the hardness of their heart. Callous; having given themselves up to all kinds of impurity. Before Paul gets to the contrast however, the life found in Christ, he wants to make sure the Ephesians have truly received Christ. He outlines a three step process in the key verses.
First we must put off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life, which is corrupt through deceitful desires. There is a bit to unpack here. First of all, Paul couches his terms with something familiar to us all, changing clothes. We must "put off" our old self. Who is our old self? Who we were before we came to Christ. Notice here that this is a willful act. It is not a magic trick. It is not accomplished merely by saying a three sentence prayer. True repentance is more than a confession of sin - it is a willful turning from that sin. Anyone can feel bad. Anyone can feel sorry. Anyone can admit guilt. Repentance however is always coupled with a deliberate turning from our old sinful self. Perfection? Hardly; but a willful turning nonetheless. Just like when we come home from work and take off our work attire, we must take off who we were in this world before we came to Christ. Do you ever hear that in a seeker friendly church? No. How about when the people come up for the altar call? No. They approach the altar call wearing the same clothes they've always worn. They leave the altar call with them still securely on their body.
Secondly, this old set of clothes belongs to our former manner of life. If you were a bus driver and one day you changed careers to become a businessman, you would not attend your first board meeting in your old bus driver uniform. It does not belong there! It is not who you are anymore! It belongs to your former manner of life! The same applies for us as Christians:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2Corinthians 5: 17 (ESV)
We are supposed to be a new creation! The old has passed away - that means it is supposed to be dead to us! Behold the new has come! What was this former manner of life? Well, we were living in rebellion to God. We were living with a blind eye to sin. Sure we may have believed in God but what He had to say really didn't matter. Maybe we treated the things of God like a salad bar; taking what we liked and ignoring what we disliked. Give me a side of "be kind to your neighbors" but I'll pass on the no fornication rule. Boiled down to the simplest terms our old manner of life was lived in accordance with what the world believes. We are supposed to take that off. Why? Because it is corrupted through deceitful desires. The dictionary defines corrupt as being debased to the point of evil and wickedness! That is our former self in a nutshell. It existed in that state because our desires are contrary to God and look what else Paul says - they are deceitful! They lie to us! That is how come we are described as walking in darkness before the light of Christ comes into our lives. Our desires lie directly to us. They tell us we aren't that bad! Look at the one over there! You're better than them! You're a shoo in for heaven! Everyone else does it! Through these lying desires we become more and more corrupt. More and more wicked. More and more evil. That is the former self beloved and it must come off. Step two in the process here is to be renewed then in the spirit of our minds. I am reminded of an interesting parable:
"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation." - Matthew 12: 43-45 (ESV)