It is appalling to think how few “Christians” really understand what the Christian life is all about. Having been told that it is all about having your sins forgiven so you can go to Heaven when you die, they pretty much live like the rest of the world on any given day except Sunday. The apostle Paul directly challenges that way of doing life.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Ephesians 4:17 – 19
Stop Living Like Gentiles!
I always find it kind of humorous that Paul is writing to a Gentile (non-Jewish) church and telling them to stop living like Gentiles. It makes sense, however, when you consider that Gentiles (at least in this case) represented people who did not know the one true God. They lived their lives without God being part of the equation on any level. This left them to figure out life on their own. Of course the result was that they came to all the wrong conclusions. With only themselves as their point of reference, everything they pursued was manipulated to best serve their needs, wants, and desires. The result was an utterly selfish, godless lifestyle.
I love the way Clarence Jordan renders this passage in his Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles.
Now I want to say this to you: Forever quit living like the rest of society who live in the utter emptiness of their intellect with the shades of their mind pulled down, complete foreigners to God’s way of life. They got this way through lack of insight and by spiritual callousness. They are so greedy that God turned them loose in their stink and let them run wild in their shameful brawls.*
Unfortunately, this is the same way a lot of “Christians” live their lives. Having dealt with God so their past sins can be forgiven, they live the rest of their lives as though God had nothing to say about the way they work, the way they play, the way they treat their spouse, raise their kids, spend their money, etc. Due to there not being a radical difference between them and the rest of the world, the message of the Gospel is greatly discredited. That is not the way God intended it to be!
That is Not the Way You Learned Christ!
Paul goes on to say,
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus… Ephesians 4:20 – 21
Jesus Christ came into our world with a radical message: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” (Mark 1:14 – 15) In other words, God was taking His place as King in order to reign over all of life. He was now to be the Center around which our world revolved.
Not only did Jesus preach this message, He lived it. That is why He said,
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38
He showed us what a life in harmony with Heaven looked like, and it was radically different from the life of everyone around Him. It went completely cross-grain with the self-centred, self-seeking spirit of the age. Instead of living to serve Himself, His life was concentrated on serving His Heavenly Father. That resulted in Him living to serve others to the point of laying down His life in death (Mark 10:45). In Him we see what life looks like when it is lived under the Reign of God.
So here is our problem. We have learned about Christ as our Saviour from our sins, but we have not learned Him as being the pattern for how life should be lived. Therefore our discipleship has centred around making sure people believed the right things about Jesus, rather than training them how to live daily under His Lordship. The result is a people with heads full of sound theology whose lives look much like those around them with very few exceptions. If our lives are not growing into the image of Christ, we can be sure we are on the wrong track.
Have You Learned Christ?
What is your conception of Christ? Is He merely your Saviour from future punishment? While that is certainly important, He desires to be so much more. He longs to be your Indwelling Life who reproduces His own God-centered life in yours. He yearns to disciple you in how to live in harmony with Heaven. And that can only happen as you and I are consistently, and persistently, living in the Reign.
“Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
*Clarence Jordan, The Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles (Chicago: Association Press, 1968), 110.