Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!
So, once our pastors start teaching us to study and do the work for ourselves as we discussed in “What’s a Pastor to Do,” and once we start maturing, as we saw in “Let’s be Grownups,” what happens then? Let’s move on to the next 8 verses of this passage. Ephesians 4:17-24 says, “17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
Notice Paul starts out by saying that he is talking with the Lord’s authority. Paul is always clear when he is speaking from the Lord and when he is just saying what he believes is true. We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 7:6 where he says it is good to stay single but qualifies it by saying, “I say this as a concession, not as a command.” So, in our passage, Paul is saying this is actually a command from the Lord, he is speaking with the authority of Christ.
The first thing he tells us with Christ’s authority is not to live like the Gentiles do. The word here doesn’t just mean Gentiles as a nation or specifically non-Jewish people, the Greek word used here can be translated as Gentile, but also can mean heathen. So, what he is saying at the beginning of verse 17 is that we can’t keep living like heathens do. He says that they are “hopelessly confused.” The word he uses here is the Greek work, “ματαιότης mataiótēs, mat-ah-yot’-ace” which the Strong’s concordance defines as, “What is devoid of truth and appropriateness, perverseness, depravity.” So, he is saying that they are hopelessly confused, devoid of truth, and depraved…they are living without God and we don’t want to be living like them.
In verse 18 he describes it even further by explaining how their minds are full of darkness and they just wander through life far from the life God can give them. I won’t go into all the detail here, but if you read my book by the same title as this blog, Cathedral Made of People, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the walking dead in the Church. If we are not in Christ, we are not walking in life, but are the walking dead. Paul also says in verse 18 that this is because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against God. Does that last phrase ring a bell? It should, we see this all throughout scripture. Remember when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt? The Bible tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Then in Deuteronomy chapter 2, we see that God hardened the heart of Sihon, the king of Heshbon. In 2 Chronicles chapter 36 we see where Zedekiah stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against king Nebuchadnezzar. And, this theme carries on throughout the New Testament. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water in Mark 6 they were astonished because, “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Mark 6:52.
This term, hardened hearts, comes from the Greek word πώρωσις pṓrōsis, po’-ro-sis which means hardness or covered with callouses. There was a great worship song written by Keith Green called Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful. I have a recording of the first time he sang this song and when he was introducing it he told about this letter he wrote to God. In the letter, he asked God to remove the callouses from his heart and give his heart baby skin. He said that these callouses didn’t come from anything he was doing, but rather from things he wasn’t doing. You see, when we don’t spend time with God every day, when we don’t pray and study His word every day, our hearts get calloused, they get hardened and we fail to see what He is trying to show us.
Paul goes on in verse 19 of Ephesians chapter 4 to tell us how these heathens had no sense of shame and just lived to please themselves, they only did what felt good to them. Doesn’t that sound a lot like our world today? Nothing has changed in 2000 years, or for that matter since mankind first fell into sin. Then in verse 20, he says, “But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.” So, what did we learn about Christ? Philippians 2:3-8 says, “3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Christ was truly selfless. He was humble and always put the needs of others ahead of his own needs. Christ didn’t live for His own pleasure, He lived for others.
Paul goes on to tell us to throw off our old sinful nature that is corrupted by our lusts and let the Spirit of God renew our thoughts and attitudes. Remember what Paul told us in Romans 12:1-2, “1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
The Bible tells us over and over to be righteous and holy. The word holy means to be set apart, so what that means is that we can’t be conformed to this world. This doesn’t mean we should be so weird the world wants nothing to do with us. How can we win them unless they want what we have? We must be in the world, but we can’t take on the world’s values. Jesus was in the world, He even ate meals with sinners, but He never acted like them. Don’t get me wrong, if you live for Christ you will be persecuted just like He was, but who was it that persecuted Christ, was it the sinners or the religious people? Just a little something to think about.