Preached by Pastor Scott Herron
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Last Sunday after Bryan’s sermon from 2 Samuel, Ali and I ended up having an impromptu time with friends around a fire. If you remember Bryan’s sermon was about the greater love Jesus has for us than sex or marriage and how friendships reflect this love. It was a time of renewal and even somewhat healing for me as all of us ended up sharing different traumas and hard times that we had experienced early on in life. It’s always renewing for someone to know you more intimately and to be received, not with shame, but love.
Our conversation led me to two thoughts:
#1 God’s timing is always perfect. The timing of Bryan’s sermon, our time together and the text this morning have ministered to my heart and helped me see once again the beauty and mystery of Jesus. Before I’m a pastor, I’m a Christian and I need these times as much as anyone. God’s timing is perfect.
My 2nd thought. It’s really more of a question…but it’s this…
#2 What does it really mean to be made new? I thought of this question as we shared our broken lives, broken hearts and broken behaviors. In light of our brokenness, what does it mean to be made new?
This text presents some tension for me, for us as Christians. And if Paul were here, I’d ask him, “What if some days, or even many days, I don’t feel like I’ve been made new? How is the Christian life a life made new with Renewed hearts, Renewed Souls, Renewed minds? How can this be, if some days I feel and act more like the broken old self?”
To be open with you, here’s why I wrestle with this. Maybe you can relate to some of this in your own way. I grew up in a religious environment that was devoid of Jesus. Grace was, ironically, something that you seem to need to earn. Sin was something you covered up. Shame was the penalty for misbehavior which made honesty not an option. Losing my mother to cancer as a child left a void that could never be filled. When I was around 9 or 10 I was introduced to pornography by neighborhood kids which led to a long struggle of guilt and shame that I covered up until I was in my early 20’s. I witnessed violence done to and by other kids in the neighborhood and felt the pain of church splits. I was taught a version of Christianity that preached, “be good, and God will love you.” But I didn’t know what goodness was. I didn’t know where it came from or what it looked like. And even though I said I was a Christian, I didn’t know Jesus.
Where are we going?
So, there’s this tension. I carry a brokenness from what I experienced and was taught, as well my own sin. But Paul is instructing the church on what it looks like to live as a Christian. To live as if we’ve been Made New!
And he’s right! But for Paul to even give this instruction to no longer live as our old selves, means that we, Christians are capable of that very thing. So, how do we do what Paul is insisting on? Especially if we seem to not do it!
I have two goals this morning.
Goal #1 If you are a Christian here this morning, my hope is that you stop and look into your life. Ask yourself, “am I living as Paul insists?” A life made new in righteousness and holiness? Or are you living as the old self. I want you to be challenged as I am. But I also want you to be encouraged. Encouraged to see how Jesus has made you new! And what it means to live a life that flows out of that renewal. That’s goal #1 to be challenged and encouraged. My 2nd goal…
Goal #2 is that if you are here this morning and you’re not a Christian, my hope is that you would see the beauty of Jesus. That you would be drawn into his love for you, and how a relationship with Jesus is the only way you will be made new.
How are we going to accomplish these goals this morning? By looking at this text in the following two ways…
#1. The Reminder &
#2. The Renewal
[MP 1] The Reminder. Vss. 17-21
[Exp] There are two reminders for us this morning…
#1 The reminder of who you were…
#2 The reminder of who you are…
#1. Who you were.
Look at vss. 17-19, “I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
To see the reminder of who you were, it helps to understand two questions. 1. Who is Paul writing to and 2. what does it mean to live as a Gentile?
Who is Paul Writing to?
Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus sometime in the 1st century. This church is filled with Jewish and Gentile Converts. Most of the Christians Paul is writing to probably came to know Jesus through Paul’s ministry. Paul is reminding them of who they once were.
So, who were they? (Living as a Gentile)
1st century Ephesus was a place not unlike our culture today. Ephesus was a very wealthy city. An active place of commerce and trade. There was an emphasis on individualism especially when it came to religion, sex and money. Sex and Sexuality was ubiquitous. Sex was used in temple worship of the Goddess Artemis. The temptation for the Christians in this church to live as the Gentiles was heavy! In fact, many of those in this church used to live that way. But Paul was reminding them that was their old life. Where the world around them was greedy with their money but unrestrained with their sexuality, Paul was calling Christians to be generous with their money but restrained with their sexuality. So, to live as a Gentile was to live as an unbeliever. Someone who doesn’t know Jesus.
Ok, so, what about us?
Paul was writing to 1st century Christians but he is also writing to us. When he says to, “not live as the Gentiles do” he is making it clear that the Christian life is lived altogether differently than the lives of unbelievers. To be a Christian is to be made new! And the reminder of who we were applies to 2 groups of people.
Group #1. Christian Converts. Paul uses the phrase Put off and put on in vs. 22.. To Put off the old self and Put on the new self is coming to know Jesus the way many of those in Ephesus did. Leaving a life of sensuality and greed for a life focused on Jesus. If this is you, you know this old self well. This old self has a hard heart. This old self lived an empty or futile life. This old life leads to a numbing of the senses. (Vs. 19). A life that only needs more and more sensations to live, but all the while is dying. The Reminder of who you were before Jesus only helps you see who you are now! You are made new. You are a new self!
Group #2. Life-Long Christians. But my guess is that many of us here have walked with Jesus for a long time. Maybe since childhood. You could say that you are the kind of Christian who in a way, was always a New Self. If this is you, the reminder of who you were is a little different. Instead of remembering who you were, be reminded what you’re capable of. The reminder that just because you are a Christian does not mean that you aren’t capable of terrible sins. Life-Long Christians struggle to feel made new. Don’t be so foolish to believe that you are incapable of going back to a life you may not have ever lived. Let me illustrate this way…
[Illus] In 2015, Business Insider magazine published an article about Markus Persson. Persson, the creator of the wildly successful video game Minecraft, sold his company for $2.5 billion—establishing him as one of the richest, most successful entrepreneurs in our time. Following the sale, he purchased a mansion for $70 million and spent his days living the dream with lavish parties, high-end vacations, world travel, and frequent hobnobbing with well-known celebrities. At the peak of his success, when he seemed to be one of the world’s happiest and most secure human beings, Persson shared the following…reflections on his Twitter page: “The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying. Hanging out with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I have never felt more isolated.”
[App & Trans] The life of an unbeliever, no matter how good it looks, no matter how much money or success, only leads to isolation and loneliness. Markus Persson has the whole world but lacks Jesus. In the end a hard heart is a lonely heart. But yet, many of us would still love to try and follow Jesus and have Markus’ wealth, wouldn’t we? Or maybe just a portion of it! If I’m honest, I think this. We think we’d do it better than he did. We think that we wouldn’t follow him into every kind of impurity and greed like Paul mentions. But we’re just plain wrong. A hard heart is a lonely, calloused heart. Like a farmer’s hands, worn from years of friction. But a calloused heart is worn from the friction of a life lived for self. Markus’ problem is not his money, it’s his heart.
The reminder of who we were is critical to living a renewed life. But we don’t just remember who we were, Paul also reminds us of who we are.
Which is the 2nd reminder from Paul…
#2 The Reminder of who you are.
[Exp] Look at vss. 20-21 now with me please. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”
Learning Jesus from Jesus
Paul moves from reminding them of who they were to reminding them of who they are! Don’t live an empty life of pleasure and greed. Why? Because that’s not who you are! That’s not what you’ve learned! When Paul says they learned about Jesus, he’s really saying they learned from Jesus!
Jesus is the Classroom, The Course Syllabus, The Textbook and The Teacher. They learned about Jesus from Jesus!
The Christian is…
Are you a Christian here this morning? Remember who you are! You’ve learned about Jesus from Jesus! Jesus is your Lord and Savior. He is who you listen to. Not the news, not your bank account. You listen to Jesus! This is who you are!
Relating back to the start
But here’s the tension…Do you remember when I said that one of my thoughts, I had during our time with friends was, “what does it really mean to be made new?” One of the reasons I’m asking this question is because deep down, what I thought would happen when I became a Christian was that all of my struggles with sin would magically melt away. I didn’t understand that it takes work and time to be made new.
[App] What does all this mean? When you come to know Jesus it’s your heart that’s made new! Living a life that pleases Jesus is essential. Paul insists on it, so does Jesus. But here’s the thing, you’ll never live a life that pleases Jesus, to walk in the new self, created to be like God in True Righteousness and Holiness unless…Unless you remember who you are. Will you struggle? Yes! Will you go back to those old habits of bitterness or anger, jealousy or self-pity. Yes! But remembering who you are changes you, makes you more like Jesus! Because, and if you don’t hear me say anything else this morning, hear me say this, Jesus didn’t come to make you a better person, he came to make you a completely new person! He doesn’t want you to know how to be good, he wants you to know him!
But this takes time…In the words of famous jazz musician Miles Davis, “sometimes it takes a long time to learn to play like yourself.”
What a beautiful quote! Let me read it again. “sometimes it takes a long time to learn to play like yourself.”
I get that. Don’t you? It takes time, but Jesus isn’t in a hurry. His timing is perfect over your life! Remember who you are!
Worship and Renewal
An application of this is to remember that Paul is writing to The Church! What is the primary mission of the church? Worship! Worship is a critical part of your journey of remembering who you are. Every time you come to worship. Every time you sing praises. Every time you partake of the Lords Supper. Every time you confess your sins, you are learning to play like yourself. The way God created you to play! This is what Paul means in vs. 22-23 when he says to be made new in the attitude of your minds, to put off the old self and put on the new!
[Recap & Trans] Remembering who we were and who we are is critical to understand our Renewal which is our last point this morning.
[MP 2] The Renewal. Vss. 22-24.
[Exp] In Verses 22-24 where Paull insists that we put off the old self and put on the new. Paul uses a verb tense that suggests two things. 1. Putting off and putting on is our current responsibility as Christians. And we talked about what that looks like. Repenting of sin. Coming to Worship. Accountability with other believers. But the 2nd thing we learn is this. 2. Putting off and putting on, being made new has already been done! What do I mean?
In his death and resurrection Jesus Makes All Things New! But, to answer the question we started with, what does it look like to be made new? I think the following illustration will help us here.
Losing our Dragon Skin
[Illus] One of my absolute favorite scenes in all of stories that I have read is the scene in C.S. Lewis’ book The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, where the lion Aslan, who is the Christ figure, takes a boorish and disobedient and heard-hearted little boy named Eustace, who has turned himself into a dragon because of his greed and selfishness, takes this little boy and makes him new!
Let me read this section to you…“You will have to let me undress you.” [Said Aslan] “But I was afraid of his claws…So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.”
“He peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was [my old skin] lying, on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing, I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”
Eustace thought he could remove his own beastly self. But any attempt to do so was false renewal. He needed Aslan to do it. And Aslan’s claws, although painful in the beginning, meant joy and healing in the end as Eustace finally sees himself as he was created to be! Made New!
Have you let Jesus make you new? To cut deep into your hard heart and peel back the dragon skin of sin? To live as a Gentile, as an unbeliever is to live trying to renew yourself with yourself. You can’t do it. To be made new we must look to Jesus. For on the cross Jesus is cut, his skin is pulled and peeled. It’s on the cross that the real pain of being made new takes place. For on the cross Jesus in his death, crucifies and kills our old self. And in his resurrection Jesus brings us new life, our new selves, made new in the fullness of God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Remember who you were. Remember who you are.
Look to him this morning. And hear his voice from Revelation 21 where our King declares his love for us with these words…
“Behold, I make everything new!” Amen, Let’s Pray.