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Feb 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 8, 2015 – Ephesians 4:25-32

The Gradual Death of the False Self

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25

Intro: Paul begins where he left off in the previous verse

He explained why our spiritual transformation is not instantaneous
– we are tugged at by the gravity of two potential selves
• the old self and the new self – or the false self and the true self
◦ the conflict is described well in Galatians

. . . walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Gal. 5:16-17)

◦ essentially, the ethical challenge is to “put off the old self and put on the new”
• we learn today that we do this piece-by-piece
◦ similar to the way we “put on the whole armor of God” (ch. 6:11-17)
– “laying aside [or “putting off”] falsehood” is one of the pieces of the old self that we strip off

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his [soul] for My sake, he is the one who will save it. (Lk. 9:23-24)

• Christian spirituality begins at the cross and is made possible by the cross
◦ the soul we lose at the cross is the false self and the soul we gain is the true self
◦ we lose the false self day-by-day (“take up his cross daily“)
• the new self does not develop automatically
◦ we have to learn how to walk and talk and listen and so on
◦ that’s what this whole section has been about, beginning in 4:1, Walk!

Later, Paul paints a picture of Jesus with his bride, bathing and beautifying her,

. . . that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ep. 5:27)

• we cannot perfect ourselves
◦ but we can break some bad habits, make some changes
◦ we can wash the window of our hearts and rinse our eyes (Mt. 5:8; 6:22-23)
– as we make our way through this passage, keep in mind: Paul was addressing Christians
• you may find yourself identifying with a behavior in the negative column
◦ remember that other believers do too
• this struggle is the spiritual journey and to stay in it is to take up our cross

V. 25, There’s a speech issue between the old self and the new self

“Falsehood”–pseudos–has been an underlying theme in this section
– awhile back,a  man represented himself to me as friend
• the way he showed interest in me was by asking a lot of personal questions
◦ for several years I assumed that we shared a genuine friendship
• after confiding in him all those years, the lesson I learned the hard way was that:

Curiosity is not necessarily an expression of love

Rowan Williams argued, “It is an unscrupulous rationalization of the lust for power which can be hidden in curiosity, the diabolical thirst to know without loving, to substitute knowing for loving.”

– for someone to know you without loving you is terrifying
• it is exactly the danger that is posed by identity theft

“Truth,” which includes being transparent or real, belongs to the new self
– we were already told to speak the truth in v. 15
• but this time Paul provides a reason, “for we are members of one another”
◦ we belong to each other
• we must be real through and through:
◦ for the spiritual community to function in good health
◦ for the spiritual community to be a haven of safety and restoration

Vv. 26-27, There’s a self-discipline issue between the old self and the new 

“Be angry” is not a command or an inevitability
– but that does not mean anger foreign to the new self
• the difference here between the old self and new self, is the new self resists sin
◦ “and yet do not sin”
• even justifiable anger can be contaminated
– when is anger an appropriate response to a situation?
• I’m sure that with some serious reflection we can figure it out on our own
◦ for example, my anger is more likely to lapse into sin when it’s all about me
• we might also ask, what sort of situations evoked Jesus’ anger?

Two ways to safeguard a proper anger:
1. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger”
– don’t let it build momentum — don’t let it accumulate interest
2. “Do not give the devil an opportunity”
– it is one thing to choose to sin, defy God, or violate his will
• it is another thing to create in our inner life an access point for evil

V. 28, There’s a theft issue between the old self and the new self

Two big surprises here:
1. That people in Christian community need to be told to stop stealing
– for the majority of the population, survival was day-to-day and theft was easy
• let’s be aware of the justifications that occur to us when given the opportunity for easy theft
2. That goal Paul gives is not, “so you become self-supporting”
– but so we would have something to share with others in need

Vv. 29, There’s another speech issue between the old self and the new self

“Unwholesome” – we might say “rotten”
– “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel”
• in the Old Testament purity code, corruption is contagious
– everything about the new self learns is devoted to promoting good
• Paul recommends three ways to do this:
1. “such a word as is good for edification”
– to build or build up – “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” 1 Co. 8:1

Soren Kierkegaard reminded us that “not everyone who builds, builds up.” To build up, one must first dig deep, just as the wise man “dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock” (Lk. 6:47-48) “To edify is to build on some foundation . . . love is the deepest foundation of the spiritual life.”

2. “Edifying” in what regard? To meet the present need
3. “So that it will give grace to those who hear”
• the grace is given when it is needed

V. 30, There are uniquely spiritual issues between the old self and the new 

Until now, the issues Paul has raised have been either social or personal
– this one directly affects our relationship with God
• Paul may be referring to everything negative in this list as that which grieves the Spirit
• notice in Jesus’ parable how fellow slaves were “deeply grieved” at the wicked slave’s lack of forgiveness
– most remarkable is that God allows himself to be affected by us
• even if we do not fully understand what that means

Vv. 31-32, There’s another anger issue between the old self and the new self

Other pieces of the old self to be “put away” include:

  1. Resentment – a allow a grievance to simmer on a back burner
  2. The sudden, explosive outburst
  3. Habitual anger, losing one’s temper as a way of life
  4. Heated shouting (rage-aholism)
  5. Insults
  6. Ill-will, having the desire to do harm

Where do we find inspiration and power to forgive those who have wronged us?
– the cross

I would think that the incredible lack of kindness among Christians today is something that grieves the Holy Spirit
– our true self is God’s image and likeness in us and reflected through us (Ep. 5:1)

Conc: As Paul moved down the list, he alternated between the community and individuals

This is the rhythm of Christian spirituality — community, solitude, community, . . .
– community prevents me thinking rules don’t apply to me
• that I have all the answers
• and it protects me from an isolation that makes sterile (or goofy)
– the individual focus makes my problems, rather than those of others, my concern

Francois Fenelon, “We can often do more for [others] by correcting our own faults than by trying to correct theirs.

– please reread and reflect on these verses this week
• we might also ask God if he wants us to work on any of them in particular
• and extra points if you memorize verse 32

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