17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, 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, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
I’ve talked before about the importance of reading God’s Word. In reading it daily, we immerse ourselves in His truths. We also learn how He talks, so that we can recognize His voice when we aren’t reading the bible. This is why the phrase affirm together with the Lord. You see, if we know what God says, then we can match up our own words, thoughts, and actions with God’s will. It’s not just about what we think, but rather what we filter through His Word as the absolute Truth. There are many times when I hear people “speak in the name of the Lord” and I know it goes against what His Word tells us. Maybe I’m being to judgmental. If His Word is our guideline for His Will, then anything that does not match up is not according to Him, right? I appreciate how Paul is careful to qualify his message before he divulges it. My study bible notes that the next two chapters are an entire thought…this is the prelude.
Verses 18 and 19 may be hard to swallow. We’ve discussed before about God’s control over everything. This includes the things that we don’t quite understand, such as those who are darkened in their understanding. As I read what Paul is saying about the hardness of their heart, I think back to when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus 4:
21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
God was in control of Pharaoh’s heart. Why was this done? To increase the faith of His people for His glory. Likewise, we encounter hardened hearts every day. We know that throughout the story of the Israelites in Egypt many signs and miracles were performed to convince Egypt to let them go, but it did not matter, because having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
But why? Why does God do this? Let’s look back to the previous verse. Being in the futility of their mind, they do not even seek Him out. You see, we still have a choice. We choose to seek Him out or to rely on our own understanding, which darkens us and excludes us from the life of God (verse 18). He is just using that for His purposes! Proverbs 3:5 tells us, Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. So if we are not to lean on our own understanding, then what are we to do to understand God and His Truth? 1 John 5 tells us, And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. If we look to Him for His understanding (not our own) we will avoid giving ourselves over to the sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Greediness is self indulgence. “But it feels so good!” I know, I know. I’ve heard a former drug user say, “why are drugs so hard to kick? Because they feel goooood!” Certainly, or else we wouldn’t do it, right? At least at first. Later, we take the drugs just to avoid the feelings of withdrawal. What’s a drug? Not just substances like heroine, alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine (yeah, I said it!) Anger, sex, codependency…they are drugs too because the emotional reaction gives us a satisfaction from the release of hormones and we become addicted to what happens when we act a certain way. We feel euphoric, accomplished, satisfied (if only for a short while). I’ve talked about this before. As we fall into this, we give in to the lusts of deceit. We give in to the lies that it will make things better, but it never does. As we continue our walk with God, it is less and less satisfying and He gives us the strength to fight against it, so we are no longer a slave to it.
We have an opportunity to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. Who doesn’t want that? I think deep down, we all do. Some of us (including me sometimes) are afraid of it, because it is unknown. That’s the point! What is faith if we know what is going to happen to us? I think that many of us get bogged down with worrying about having to change this or that in our lives in order to be a Christian. In order to follow Christ, we have to start living by rules…NO NO NO!!! If we really want to know what God wants for us, if we truly want to know what our purpose is, all we have to do is look to Him and ask! HE will take care of the transformation. All we have to do is seek Him out, and He will change our hearts, our minds, our actions, and everything else! If salvation was up to us, if it hinged on us being in good standing, then it wouldn’t be grace, it wouldn’t be unconditional love, it would be like applying to a job.
I get fired up about this because too many people are wasting away their lives because the church (that is, the man made establishment of religious doctrines) has made it seem like there is a qualification checklist to be saved or deemed “worthy” of God’s love. It’s quite the opposite! We will never be worthy on our own accord. He makes us worthy. All you have to do is ask. All you have to do is turn towards Him and let Him know you are tired of living corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit and are ready to live in Truth, Love, and Grace.
If you are saved: do you live saved? Have you laid aside the old self? We have been gifted with a new life, a new way of living, one of freedom, not of slavery. Do we act as if we have put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth? If not, then you are still living a lie. You aren’t living up to your full potential!
Break free from this world. Claim the freedom from slavery of our own deceit and callousness that we pretend to be happy with.