The following is an excerpt from my book, Blessed to Be a Blessing…
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Ephesians 4:17, NIV).
What is a Gentile? A Gentile is anyone who’s not a Jew, but I think you’ll agree that’s not the point of our verses today. A Gentile is also anyone who doesn’t live with his life lined up with God’s Word. He’s not a part of God’s family, and he’s not loyal to the one, true God.
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18, NIV).
Sometimes, as in the case of Rahab (Joshua 2 and 6; Hebrews 11:31), some Gentiles are separated from God because of ignorance. Maybe they grew up in homes where they never learned anything about God. It’s as if they were born with a learning disability, a physical defect — “darkened in their understanding” and spiritually blind. The Bible says that their hearts are hard, much like the soil in the ground is hard where no garden has ever been planted.
So how does a Gentile live? Paul has already told us that a Gentile’s thinking is futile, or incapable of producing any results. In other words, if we live as the Gentiles do, we will not have the strength to live for God. That kind of thinking just results in death. “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:21, NIV)
A Gentile also lives without any sensitity to God or His righteous standards. God’s laws simply don’t exist in his mind.
“Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19, NIV).
After all, if they have this spiritual learning disability, a darkened understanding, and no awareness of God’s reality, then their consciences don’t bother them too much when they decide to make up their own rules.
- “Anything goes!”
- “I just wanna have fun!”
- “Who’s going to take care of me if I don’t?”
- “Life’s too short to think all the time.”
- “Get outta my way!”
Now Paul is going to spend a huge amount of time comparing and contrasting the way a Gentile lives and thinks with the way “God’s whole family in heaven and earth” (Ephesians 3:15) lives and thinks.
A New Mind
“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:20-21, NIV).
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” How do we renew our minds? The same way we came to know Christ, by being taught from God’s Word.
- reveals the attitudes of our minds (Hebrews 4:12-13),
- explains what God’s righteousness looks like (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 5:11-14) as explained in His laws (Psalm 119:42),
- and makes us “holy,” or set apart from the world’s futile way of thinking (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Our church has been studying through “The Truth Project” together, and one of our main goals has been to discover where our thinking is still “futile” and “corrupted.” We’re learning how to “put off” that old way of thinking, like a shirt that doesn’t fit any more, and “put on” a new mind, a mind that is firmly based in the truth of God’s Word.
It’s not easy. Just like it’s a lot of work to go through a box of out-of-season clothes, trying on each one, discarding the useless clothing and hanging up the good stuff, so it’s a lot of work to sort through all the thinking of our minds, one by one, piece by piece… Where do ya start?!
Paul helps us out:
|Put Off:||Put On:||Why?|
|Falsehood||Speak truthfully to his neighbor||We are all members of one body.|
|Anger that doesn’t stop.||Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.||Do not give the devil a foothold.|
|He who has been stealing must steal no longer.||He must work, doing something useful with his hands.||He may have something to share with those in need.|
|Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.||Only [speak] what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.||Our speech must benefit those who listen.|
The same Spirit of God who came to live within us, “sealing us for the day of redemption” as a king seals a decree with a ball of wax and ensures that it will remain valid, has given us a new life and a new way of thinking.
Our new way of thinking takes into account that “we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). We learn that we should no longer live for ourselves. We grasp the enormity of the body of Christ, that those from every tribe and nation have been called, and we are humbled that we were included. Instead of pride, we walk with thankfulness for being “sealed” into this new family.
We look around at others in this family and recognize that we’re all former Gentiles. None of us brought our own merit to God. We were all accepted only because of Christ and His sacrifice for us. We’re all starting from the same humble beginnings.
We would never want to hurt the One who loved us and gave His life for us.
We would never want to grieve the One who has come to live inside us and breathe new life into us.
So we work to never hurt the other members of His family, knowing that He loves them just as much as He loves us. They are “precious in His sight,” so they must be precious in our eyes, too.
So Paul concludes,
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32, NIV).
That last phrase says it all. “Just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Righteousness and laws and “do this” rules are only helpful if we understand why they’re given. In God’s case, His rules are always meant to benefit His dear family. He loves each member, and He asks us to love them as He does.
This certainly isn’t how the Gentiles live! Let’s be “made new” in the attitudes of our minds.
P.S. Discover more about God’s amazing plan for your life in Blessed to Be a Blessing.