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Weekly Word

Entries in Old Nature (2)


Old Man New Man

Ephesians 4:20-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 15, 2016, for Pentecost Sunday.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, which is the commemoration of the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all of God's people in Jerusalem following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  Today it is easy for us to be so fixated on a particular experience with the Holy Spirit that we can lose sight of all that the Spirit of God is trying to do in our life.  If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to put your faith in Jesus without his aid.  Thus that same Holy Spirit is at work in your life whether or not you have had a particular kind of experience.  Over the course of history we see that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not always happen the same way and look the same.  I mention this because one of the problems in the Church today is that people can actively reject the leading of the Holy Spirit in their life, all the while seeking a religious experience in a service.  It is important for us to come to grips with the reality that we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit while we continue to embrace the life of our old nature, and that those who have been filled with the Spirit and turn back to their old nature grieve Him and negatively affect His work.

As we look at this passage today, we will focus on the work of the Holy Spirit to deliver us from the "old man," and enable us to be a "new man."

We are learning a new way of life

In the verses leading up to this section Paul has been talking about the gentile nations, which is the unbelieving world around Israel.  They had hardened their heart towards God, and thus were ignorant of the life that God had for them.  Paul shows how their futile thinking separated them from that life God had.  In Jesus, we who believe have been called out of that futile thinking and separated state, into the mind of Christ and connection with the Father.

Putting off the Old Self.  Sometimes this phrase is illustrated with clothing.  When we wake up in the morning we take off our night clothes (pajamas) and we put on our day clothes.  Thus the believer is waking up to the daylight of God's truth.  This calls for a different attire, which is the actions of our body and the intentions of our mind.  Yet, this illustration can be somewhat misleading.  In life we continually cycle back between night clothes and day clothes, and there is nothing wrong with this.  However, God does not intend for us to put back on our "night clothes."  In Jesus we dwell in an eternal, spiritual day.  Thus wPaul uses the phrase "old man" in verse 22.  Another way to see this is to think of it as the old self.  The old self represents the old way of life before the truth of Jesus.  I was ignorant of God's truth and used my futile thinking (influenced by the futile thinking of the world around me) to live my life in a way that was contrary to God.  My own sinful desires deceived me into embracing them and thus I further corrupted my life and mind.  Our fleshly desires deceive us into adopting all manner of thoughts and actions that increase the separation between me and the Life that God has for me.  This is why we are called to lay aside the old man or old self.

Putting on the New Self.  In verse 23 Paul states the positive side of this.  We put off the old so that we can replace it with the New Man or New Self.  The New Self is not just a better you, bu rather is Jesus himself.  Those who put their faith in Jesus begin a process of cooperating with the Holy Spirit's makeover of our life.  He intends to make us like Jesus.  The new me is being patterned after Jesus.  The mind and thinking of Jesus is not separated from God, neither is it ignorant of His plan.  Rather, it cooperates with God in accomplishing His will.  The Spirit of God operates to soften our hearts so that they can be made righteous and holy.

The "List of Sins."  It is common in the New Testament to run into lists of sins.  Paul begins such a list in verse 25.  It is amazing that some who call themselves believers ignore these lists under the guise of being under grace and not under the law.  Of course we are no longer under the Law of Moses.  However, we are under the Law or rule of Christ.  In Romans 8:2 Paul calls it the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is not counseling us in the sense that He is giving us a good opinion or advice, something that we can regard or disregard.  He is God working in us to lead us where we ought to go and teach us how we ought to be.  If we refuse Him, we do so at our own injury, as well as the injury of others.  Christ wants us to be free from those deceitful desires of our flesh that separate us from God.  How can we give into those deceitful desires and still claim to not be separated from God?  Paul calls these sins to task: lying, sins of anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, brawling, slandering, and all forms of evil.  We are called to lay such things aside and leave them behind.  We cannot avoid this by saying we are under grace.  No, we are under Christ and in that place have been given grace.  Grace is not given to those who reject the Holy Spirit.  It is given to those who recognize what He is doing and are embracing it.  Yes, we do fail at times and God offers grace for the repentant.  But a person who is not repentant cannot use grace as a shield for rebellion.

The Principle of Opposite Virtue.  There is another thing to notice in this list.  Paul is pointing out that in our life of sin before Christ, we gave ourselves to such sins.  Part of putting off these sins is to adopt the virtue that is opposite the sin, or the virtue that counteracts that sin.  Thus in verse 25, liars should practice speaking the truth.  This will be extremely difficult at first.  But those who listen to the Spirit and fight the good fight are given the grace to do so without fear.  In verse 26 we see that those who sinned out of anger need to channel that energy into righteous action.  In fact, in light of verse 31, we should get to a point where we are not acting out of anger at all.  Rather we are energized by the mind of Christ and the Spirit's power.  In verse 28, theives should use their hands at a legitimate job and use the money to give to others rather than take.  In verse 29, those who practice unwholesome talk (corrupt or rotten speech) should speak only that which builds others up in Christ according to their needs.  This whole issue is worth investing hours of prayer and seeking God for wisdom regarding how we can replace our own sins with the virtues that nullify the hold these sins have on us, as long as we pursue them.

Grieving the Holy Spirit.  Because we are in a relationship with Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can grieve Him.  He is leading us from the Old Man to the New Man.  Like Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, so we can be stubborn and mule-headed, moaning and complaining.  Thus in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul encourages believers by saying this, "Do not quench the Holy Spirit."  This literally says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."  The presence of the Spirit of God in your life is like a powerful fire that burns in you to become like Christ.  When we douse that power and embrace our old life, it causes the Spirit of God to be sorrowful.  He is not sorrowful out of petty, selfish reasons.  Rather, He knows the pain and sorrow we are bringing on ourselves and the people around us by embracing these sins.  In Galatians 6:7-8 Paul warns, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.  Whatsoever a man sows that will he also reap.  If you sow to the flesh you will from the flesh also reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."

Yielding to the Holy Spirit.  Thus we need to learn to yield to the Holy Spirit and stop grieving Him.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us in order to teach, lead, and fill our lives with power to obey.  He also marks us as belonging to Jesus (sealed with the seal of Jesus in verse 30).  He is teaching us to let go of evil motivations and desires, so that we can operate from the Love of God.  This is what verse 32 is describing.  The Holy Spirit will fill our life with God's kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness if we will yield to His direction.  It is when we yield that the power to do will come from the Lord.  Let's become like Jesus and not like the world!

Old Man New Man audio


Hungry For God’s Word

Today we return to our study of 1 Peter, starting in Chapter 2.  Unfortunately we are unable to supply the audio for this sermon.

You may not connect being hungry with the Bible.  However, this is a metaphor that is employed throughout the scriptures.  Like bread is to the body, so God’s Word is to our spirit.  Just as some foods are not as good for us as others, so certain thoughts and ideas are not as good for us either.  What do you hunger to eat spiritually?  If it isn’t God’s Word then you might be in spiritual danger.  Let’s look at 1 Peter chapter 2.

We Need To Desire God’s Word

Peter ended chapter 1 with a powerful reminder of the place that God’s Word had in their salvation.  It was through the Gospel that was preached to them that they believed and were born again by the Holy Spirit.  However, the Word is not just powerful in making us spiritually alive.  It is not just something that we need to get started and then can go on without.  We need it every day.

Peter instructs them to have a desire or yearning for God’s Word.  It is not the Bible’s fault if I don’t desire it.  It is “good food.”  It is exactly what my spirit needs to grow and be alive in this world.  So, if I do not desire it then the problem is in me.  That is why Peter commands them to desire God’s Word.  Change your mind, change your actions and your heart will follow. 

Laying aside the old nature is a necessary component to approaching God’s Word.  In fact much of God’s Word reminds us of this need and explains why it is necessary.  Laying aside is a picture of taking off things that are hindrances.  Putting on the proper attire for dinner with your spouse also involves taking of the dirty clothes of the day.  When we approach the Word we are approaching a very intimate thing that God provided for us. This is clearly not an exhaustive list.  However, lets walk quickly through the five things mentioned.   Malice is any ill-will or evil inclination we might have towards others.  Deceit involves craftiness and hidden motives that are generally for the benefit of self.  Hypocrisy is a form of deceit in which we pretend or act differently than we really are.  Envy is a step beyond jealousy.  It doesn’t just wish it had what you have, but desires to take what you have and despises the benefit.  Lastly, evil speaking is a very broad category.  It can spoken behind another’s back or spoken to their face.  Either way it involves saying bad things with our mouth that hurt others.

This brings us to the analogy of a little baby.  All babies need to grow and all babies yearn for milk.  Our spirit has been born again by the Word and we need it to spiritually grow.  Thus we need to yearn for it.  Growth is not just about size.  A baby can grow in size and still remain a “baby” in mind.  Thus spiritual growth is not just a matter of a certain number of years reading Scripture.  Just as a baby takes in food, digests it, and draws life from it, so we too must spiritually take in God’s Word, digest it, and draw life from it.  Notice that food only gives a baby the strength to grow physically and mentally.  However, choices are made along the way.

The word translated “pure” in reference to the milk of the Word is closer to the idea of sincere.  It literally is “not deceitful.”  God’s Word does not have any hidden motives for its own ends.  It is the sincere Word of God.  To embrace it we are going to need to “un-embrace” those philosophies and ideas of the world that are deceitful.

Do you think that you can spiritually grow to the point that you are like Jesus?  God is able to do that which is impossible.  However, we must want it.  We are going to have to go after it by hungering for his Word.  When we receive God’s Word like a child it will yield spiritual growth.  But if we approach it as an adult who has it all figured out, our own deceived nature will blind us to the Truth and keep us from new birth and life.  In verse 3, Peter seems to be alluding to Psalm 34:8.  “O, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”  Taste points to an intimate experience.  I haven’t just observed the LORD.  Rather, I have fed upon his Word.  I have taken it in and found his ways to be good.  That doesn’t mean nothing bad happens.  It is good in that it is helpful and beneficial and righteous.  Peter is not so much questioning their experience as he is emphasizing the “oughtness” of their needed desire.  If you’ve found the LORD to be good then you “ought” to desire his Word.

We Are Being Built By God

Next Peter uses two metaphors that come directly from the Temple in Jerusalem.  The first has to do with the temple building itself.  We are living stones in a new temple that God is building.  This building is a spiritual temple that is made of people instead of stones.  Thus, before God allowed the 2nd Temple to be destroyed, he first had his faithful, Son Jesus lay a foundation for a new one.  The temple in some ways is finished in that it is spiritually functional and the Spirit of God dwells in it.  However, in another way it is still being built as new believers are added to its coursework every day.  Notice that these stones are rejected by the world but chosen by God.  He doesn’t choose us because we are perfect, but because we are shapeable.  Many great stones of this world will not allow God to shape them.  Many great builders of this world have no place for Jesus himself.  They reject him as an unfit stone.  When you embrace Jesus you are no longer a part of those who “fit” in this world.  But worry not.  God fits you into his spiritual temple.  You have a place in his temple given by him.  No one can take it from you and you have every bit as much right as any other stone to be a part of God’s temple.

There is a personal and a corporate sense to this.  In a personal sense, God works on you to make you into his temple.  It is a work that goes the length of our life.  All along, though, His Spirit dwells within us and communes with us.  On a corporate level, we have been placed in his temple.  We are already shaped and fitted into place.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you do not have a place in God’s people.  That is a work that God does by His Spirit through His Word.

The next metaphor is the priests who worked in the temple.  We are holy priests in His new temple. Israel was used to priesthood being defined by biology or genetics.  You had to be a levite.  However, all believers in Jesus become priests in God’s new temple.  Not just priests but holy priests.  God is holy so we need to minister before him in holiness.  How can I do this?  Clearly I must first be “clothed” with the holiness of Christ through faith in him.  But I also need to pursue personal holiness by repenting of sin and removing it from my life.  This is part of my spiritual act of worship.  When I lay sinful thoughts, desires, and actions on the altar, I am allowing them to be destroyed in honor of God.  I also minister to God through prayers, praise and self-denying acts of loving service in Jesus name.  Lastly we minister by mediating between God and the lost of this world.

Peter uses Scriptures from Isaiah and Psalms to point out that Jesus was rejected.  He was the chief cornerstone of the new temple, but the builders rejected him.  The builders also rejected those who believed on Jesus and followed him.  We must not reject God’s Word, but rather desire and yearn for it.  That is how God builds us up into his holy temple and his holy priests.  You cannot receive Jesus AND reject his word.  How often people try to say something like this, “I believe in Jesus, but I can’t accept this verse here….”  Or they say, “Jesus never said what the Old Testament says.  So I believe in him but reject it.”  Those who say such things are deluded.  Jesus is the Word and the Word is speaking of Jesus from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Revelation22:21.  None of the Scriptures are in contradiction to Jesus and Jesus is not in contradiction to the Scriptures.

In verses  9-10 Peter ends with reminding them that they had become the people of God.  Israel had been identified for so long as the people of God.  But in Jesus God is doing a new thing.  For “whosoever will” of Israel that would join themselves to him, he took a remnant and put it together with people from every tribe, race, and tongue on earth to be the people of God.  Jew and Gentile alike in one body that belongs to the Lord, we have been chosen by God, made royal through our adoption into his family, made holy by Jesus, and special to him.  Special is literally the idea of purchased.  God “paid good money for us.”  We are special not just because we cost so much, but because God was willing to pay so much.  In fact, it is he who makes you special.  Don’t look at yourself trying to find something special.  You look to Him.  He is the special one who makes us rejected ones special.

Food For Thought

The enemy knows that his only hope is to get us to reject or ignore God’s Word.  That way we will not only fail to grow, but we will also spiritually die.  He hates what you have and what you stand to gain.  He will do anything in his power to convince you to throw away the best thing you could ever have.  Don’t be deceived by this world.  Let God fit you into his people and shape you into his temple that he loves to dwell within.