Sunday, October 23, 2022

Old Man / New Man: The Change

 Ephesians 4:22-28

(T)hat, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.  BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.  Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.

Sermon for the 19th SAT                                                          10/23/22

Old Man / New Man: The Change

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I have a confession to make this morning.  I have been a Christian all of my life.  I was baptized when I was two months and five days old.  I have no time in my life of which I am aware that I was not a believer.  I was raised in the Lutheran Church and have loved going to church and singing the hymns and hearing the sermons all of my life, from my earliest memories to now.  I enjoyed doing memory work as a child.  I like talking about God - and I like talking to Him.  He listens so very well.  I have hated being alive at different times of my life.  I have wished my life circumstances were entirely different at one time or another, but I have always believed in God and trusted in Him and hoped for eternal life.

So a passage like the Epistle lesson this morning has always struck me.  I have sinned at times in my life, but I have never known a time when I did not live with a consciousness of God, and of His will, and of His love.  When I sin, sometimes I have had other things more prominent in my mind, and sometimes I have deliberately pushed God out of my mind so that I could sin more boldly at the moment, but I never had the time before I believed to point to and say, now that was my former manner of life, that was my "old self".  But I have always known what Paul was talking about when he wrote about that old self and that former manner of life.  Our theme this morning is, "Old Man / New Man: The Change".

Before we go any farther, let me say that I do know how this passage applies to me.  I know the old man and I know where he lives.  He lives in my flesh, in my sinful desires and in my inability to resist sin.  This passage often sounds like it speaks only to those who used to be pagans and are now Christians, but it doesn't.  It speaks to me, and to my weakness and sin, and it speaks to yours as well.  So let us talk about the Old Man and the New man and the change in us due to Christ.

The first thing we notice is that the old man is not a nice guy.  Paul tells us that the Old Man is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.  There are three ideas there: corruption, lust (which is any strong desire, but usually refers to a sinful desire), and deceit.  There is nothing attractive or pleasing in that list.  Corruption takes you from good to bad, or from bad to worse.  That is the human condition.  We recognize it, in our own backwards way, when we grumble about the decay of our society, and when we yearn for "the good old days".  Sin is corrosive to human nature, and we are corrupted by it.  I often find myself looking at the news and wondering how anyone could do the things I see have been done by someone that day.  It is spooky when I have to confess that it is only by the grace of God at work in me that I am not capable of such things, or that I am not doing them.

There was a program on TV that featured the capture of internet predators who came to a house in a suburbs somewhere, seeking to molest twelve and thirteen year old girls - or boys.  Several of their "guests" have made repeat appearances, and some of them were teachers, rabbi's, and even ministers.  These were outwardly good, decent, normal people – at least by all appearances – who found themselves corrupted by sin and the lusts of deceit.   I would like to think that I am "bullet-proof" in this regard, but the Bible - and just watching the world around me - instructs me that it is not necessarily so.

That is why St. Paul urges us to lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self.  That is something you can do, by the power of God the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.  Unbelievers cannot.  They are mired in the corruption, and the lusts, and the deceit.  They need to be rescued - and not just from sin, but from themselves.  They need the help of someone sharing with them the hope of salvation and the good news of forgiveness of sins, salvation and forgiveness bought and paid for by the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and proclaimed by His resurrection!  They need to hear that they have been redeemed.  They have been purchased and won from that corruption in accordance with the lusts of deceit – not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death.

You, too, have been redeemed, You have also been made the child of God through Baptism, and fed salvation in His holy Supper.  You have God's own power within you to lay aside that old self, and put on the new man.  You don't have to create that new man.  Paul tells us that God has already created him.  Paul writes, "that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. " That renewal is God's work, as we talked about last week, but Paul exhorts us by God's own inspiration to be renewed, that is, that we live in that renewal, and not in the confusion and corruption of the deceits of this life.  We are God's holy people.  He even tells us that we have been newly created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

But, although God has done the work - redeeming us, and creating in us that new self, we still have to put it on, that is, we need to deliberately live the life of holiness and righteousness and truth that God has created for us.  You have to live out the renewed spirit and renewed mind that God has given you.  You have that power, and the ability to make that choice.  It is all God-given, poured out into you by the gift of the Holy Spirit, so, you can do it.  

Sadly, some, who call themselves "Christian" do not.  They remain in the ways of the world, they behave as though nothing has changed, and that there is no difference between a Christian and anyone else.  But, simple reason will show you, if there is no difference, then we have no different hope either.  If being a Christian makes no difference in you, it makes no difference for you either.

This is not to say that a Christian does not sin.  Paul himself wrote about the problem in Romans 7, "The good that I want to do, I don't do, but I find myself doing the very evil things I don't want to do."  That is one of the reason Paul encourages and exhorts us.  He knows we need it, and he knows that sin is still natural to our flesh.  So He encourages us to lay aside the old self – repent – and put on the new self.

"Laying aside the old self" and "putting on the new self" is the change that our sermon theme speaks of.  It means allowing the Word of God to change your mind, and shape your thinking, and end the deceit of self-justification.  That can only happen when we hear the Law and confess our sins, and then trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and life and salvation.  Paul doesn't describe what this change looks like in every detail, but he does give us a couple of important aspects of it.  Because it is a renewal in truth, he tells us to be people of truth - "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another."  When we undergo this change, we set aside the deceit – the old self – and adopt the truth – the new self, just as He who is the Truth has chosen us and made us members of His own family.

It is important that we do this for more reasons than one.  Not only does this truthfulness reflect who we are but we need to deal with one another honestly because we are connected.  We are members - the word means "body parts" - of one another.  In the body of Christ, we are inter-connected.  It makes as little sense for division and dishonestly to appear among the people of God as it makes sense for your hand to chop off your foot, or your mouth to refuse to feed your stomach.

Another issue – a putting on of the new self – that Paul instructs us about deals with anger.  Anger is toxic, but it is also unavoidable as long as we wear this sinful flesh.  Keeping that in mind, Paul wrote, "BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity."

Anger itself is not the whole problem.  It is what we do with anger that is the problem.  As the children of God, we are to deal with everything honestly, including our anger.  We are to confront our anger, and we need to deal with the cause or source of our anger.  Sometimes that means we need to get a grip and deal with the reality of our lives like grown-ups, and sometimes it means to address the situation that stirs up our anger, and find a solution - which almost always involves confession and repentance by someone – and forgiveness from someone else.  

At all cost, we are to avoid allowing anger to stew within us and fester into a bigger problem.  Paul says, "do not let the sun go down on your anger".  In order to do this, it requires the courage to speak about what's bugging you, and the courage and willingness – and humility – to really listen when someone responds to you, and, on the other side, it requires the compassion to care when someone else has an issue to share with us.  This all demands the new man, because the old man is not up to either end of this conversation.

The issue at the bottom of it all is that we do not allow the devil an opportunity.  The Greek there is interesting; it says, literally, "do not give a place to the devil."  Our anger, particularly when we don't deal with the causes, gives the devil a place within us from which he might diminish us, or seduce us.  Dishonesty works the same way.  It opens the door to the devil to twist our perceptions, to lead us from the truth, and to give others cause for bitterness against us.

The final example in our text of the change is the example of the thief who has been converted.  He stops his life of taking and begins to work so that he may have to give to others instead.  It marks the size of the change worked by this change from the old man to the new man - putting off of the one who takes from others and putting on of the child of God, the new self who gives to others, just as Jesus gave to us.  This change is part of being the people of God, and result of it.  It is also part of how we remain the people of God and resist the corruptions of the lusts of deceit.

As I earnestly desire to stand firm in the faith and be faithful unto death that I may finally obtain that crown of life, as Revelations 2:10 promises me, I also want to walk in this truth of the old man/new man and of the change which Christ brings.  I want to put away the "old" and be renewed in my spirit and in my mind, to the new man, who is being renewed in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  I want it, but that is a change that God alone works.  I know you want the same things - and here Paul teaches us that God has created that new man in us that we may live in Him by grace and through faith.  May we deliberately and consciously walk in the newness of Christ by His power and according to His will, reflecting the Old Man / New Man: the Change.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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