Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Changing Your Mind

Ephesians 4:17-24

In Chapter 4, verse 1 of Ephesians, Paul exhorted us to walk worthy of the calling we have received. Verse 17 begins a series of paragraphs telling us what that ?walk? looks like. It concludes all the way in Chapter 6, verse 20.

He begins by making a contrast?from the way things were in our thought patterns and behavior before we came to Jesus, to what we are to become as redeemed humans. He?s just finished talking about how we as maturing believers should refuse to be influenced by deceitfully bad doctrine out there, but instead should focus on telling it like it is?the way things work in God?s universe?but do it in love. This creates a harmony in the body so it can work for effectively and efficiently to spread the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So Paul now turns from the body as a whole facing out to the world, and focuses back in on the mind, soul, and heart. The goal is transformation from the inside out.

17

Paul isn?t just giving a piece of advice here. The word ?testify? is where we get the word ?martyr.? It means to call a witness, or to proclaim something solemnly. There is a way of thinking about reality that is wrong. Paul wants it to stop. He can definitely ?testify? as to this incredible change. In the mind of Saul of Tarsus, Jesus and anyone who followed Him was an enemy to be destroyed. That stopped on the road to Damascus when Jesus made him realize his thinking patterns were 180 degrees opposite of reality.

You?ll notice as we go through here that Paul is talking about our minds?how we think?and then how those thought patterns work their way out into our character. As God changed Saul?s mind into His mind, He even changed his name to Paul. Though we don?t necessarily change our names, God is also out to change our minds.

The way your thought patterns worked prior to coming to Christ was after the patterns set in this age. There are so many things that influence us: traumas in our past, our friends, our family of origin, the cultural norms we grew up, the things we?ve watched and the people we?ve hung out with and the things we?ve done. Without Jesus at the center, these thought patterns are ?futile?. The word ?futile? in Greek is a purely Biblical term. It means: ?what is devoid of truth.? In the Greek Old Testament it?s used often in Ecclesiastes: 1:2   ??Absolute futility,? says the Teacher. Absolute futility. Everything is futile.?

Paul uses the term Gentiles because all of the Ephesians were gentiles before they came to Christ. The truth is, those outside of Christ don?t understand reality. They might think they have it all together but it won?t help them. That?s why it is ?futile?. All humans want lasting satisfaction in life. This age has created lots of ways to try and get that satisfaction, but it is of no lasting value.

Like that famous theologian Mick Jagger says: ?I can?t get no satisfaction, ?cause I try and I try and I try and I try.? The more fallen humans try, the less satisfied they are. So how does this work?

18

There is a parallel to this thought in Romans 1:18-32. Two realities exist here: humans outside of Christ have a mental block to understanding who God is and how things work in His universe. The word ?darkened? means to be blind. 2 Corinthians 4:4 talks about how the ?god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.? It?s a different Greek word but the effect is the same. Jesus talked a lot about darkness and light as a stand-in for the way things work in His kingdom and the way things work in this age (Matt 6:23).

This blindness leads us to be excluded from the life of God through Jesus Christ. All this comes about through what theologians call ?culpable ignorance?. You know the old phrase: ?Ignorance of the law is no excuse.? Later in Romans 2:1-16 Paul basically says that even if you never heard about Jesus, your own conscience will condemn you.

The reality today is that it is very hard to escape the gospel. Yet people want to be ignorant. They don?t want to consider the claims of Jesus seriously and they let what the culture tells them about Jesus create their opinion about Him. This forms a shell around the mind, insulating the old thinking patterns from the new.

The second condition is ?hardness of their hearts.?

People make decisions about the gospel, and those decisions become hardened the more times they are made. Eventually a person becomes so hardened to the gospel that they don?t even hear it any more. Pharaoh experienced this, where in Exodus it tells us that Pharaoh hardened his heart against God 7 times, and then God hardened Pharaoh?s heart 7 times. God simply gave Pharaoh what he wanted. See this study on our website for more on that. This hardening has been defined as ?deliberate refusal of the moral light available to them in their own thought and conscience? (?Letter to the Ephesians?, O?Brien, 322).

What happens when a person blocks out the gospel?

19

A callous forms when you rub something over your skin over and over. I have callouses on the tips of the fingers on my right hand. They come from pressing into steel guitar strings over and over. Without callouses my fingers would hurt. Callouses on the heart and mind keep you from feeling the Holy Spirit speaking the gospel to you. Without the gospel, without salvation in Jesus, there is no real satisfaction, but it doesn?t take away the need for lasting satisfaction.

So what happens is the human nature, coupled with demonic influence, supplies ?faux? satisfaction?in ways that are actually contrary to how things work in God?s universe.

Here are some examples: Gal. 5:19   ?Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance?as I told you before?that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.?

What Paul says here is that doing these things only ?satisfies? for a moment. For example we might feel jealousy (not wanting someone else to have something we want) and we burst out in anger. It feels good for a moment to let out those feelings, but in the long run it hurts others and only serves to strengthen the jealousy and the anger in us. Hebrews 11:25 talks about the ?short-lived pleasures of sin?. Sin is addictive. With any addiction, you have to do more to get the same feeling. So people who become calloused to the gospel go further and further away from the character of God in an attempt to get that satisfaction, but not in ways God intended.

Paul?s point?and he?ll apply this practically in a bit?is that we in the body of Christ are to be different. We don?t do these things as much as we used to. And as we grow we do them less and less.

20 ? 21

Jesus said ?I AM the truth.? If you want to know reality, look at Jesus. The basic point of these verses is that when you received Jesus as your Lord, you submitted yourself to learning and being taught a new value system, which will work its way through your thoughts, words, and actions. It?s not instantaneous, but a continual process as we see in the next verses.

22 ? 24

There are three aspects to this process of change: ?putting off?, ?being renewed?, and ?putting on?.

Putting off means to put something away. In this case it is loyalty to an old way of thinking. Rom. 8:13 ?for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.? Putting away is a choice we can make, once we are in Christ?s family. But like junk mail, it is a continual process.

Putting on means to put on a new garment. You change your mind like changing out of your work clothes to go work in the yard. You don?t wear a dress or suit and tie to mow the lawn or weed the garden. And you don?t wear the old way of thinking in the new way of living in God?s kingdom. This is also a choice that is made continually. Before being redeemed we did not have a choice, we thought like this age. But in Christ you put off the old each day, and decide to put on the new. In doing this even, it is not just you making yourself better. Why?

To renew here is interesting. It literally means to allow an external force to give you a new mind. The Holy Spirit comes in to make a permanent home in your mind (John 14:23). We need to make room for Him and His value system to grow in the garden of our minds. That starts by making a decision. Just as you decide to become hardened to the gospel, you can also decide to become softened to the presence of God in your mind, making changes, giving you new values. These new values are like God is: right, and pure, and true.

So as we looked at the results of the old thinking patterns, let?s conclude by looking at the results of the new: Galatians 5:22   ?But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.?

So the word of encouragement today is simply this: decide each day that with God?s help, you are going to take off the old thinking patterns and put on the way Jesus thinks. And be prepared to make that wardrobe change in your mind many times each day. The more you do it, the less times you need to change clothes.

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