Ephesians 4:22-24

Sermon preached on June 27, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Bicycle racing in an event like the Tour de France is a team sport. There are nine riders on each team and each rider has a role. There is one team leader, he usually contends for the General Classification, the overall win. Then there are what are called, domestics- they work for the team and the team leader. Some of them are specialists in the mountains. In the mountains they give themselves for their team leader, whatever he needs. They'll go back to the team car for water and bring it up to him. For much of the race they'll ride in front of him so he can draft off of them, saving him energy. They'll sometimes set a hard pace on some of the early climbs to thin out some of the other teams. On the final climb, if there's any of them left, one or two of them will ride in front of their team leader for as long as they can, and then, when they've used up all of their energy, they will tail off the end, totally burnt out for their leader. Some other team members are for the flatter stages. They set a high pace to keep their leader safely near the front of the peloton. They'll surround their team leader, protecting him, keeping him safe. They all have their job, and they sacrifice themselves for the team. But the one job they all have is to ride the bike.

We who are Christians have our jobs as well. We're all different and we have different roles to fill. But just like the Tour de France riders all have the job of riding the bike—we all have one job to do that is the same.

Why are you here? What is God's will for your life? What your supposed to be doing every day that you live? Paul writes, (Ephesians 4:22–24)

"You were taught,
with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted
by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness."

One of the main things our text teaches you is that

you are to reflect God's character.

You were created to be like God. This was true of the original creation of Adam and Eve. They were both made in the image of God. The fall into sin marred and defaced the image of God in us. Fallen human beings still retained the image of God in them, but it was so damaged and distorted that it was barely recognizable. It's like looking at a broken mirror. Because it's broken you don't get a very good reflection at all.

But what Paul is referring to here is our being created to be like God in our new self, a necessary consequence of believing in Jesus. For those who are in Jesus Christ that image is being restored. John Calvin writes, (on the parallel passage of Colossians 3:10)

"we are renewed after the image of God… Hence, too, we learn, on the one hand, what is the end of our regeneration, that is, that we may be made like God, and that his glory may shine forth in us; and, on the other hand, what is the image of God… the rectitude and integrity of the whole soul, so that man reflects, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of God… Paul…teaches, that there is nothing more excellent at which the Colossians can aspire, inasmuch as this is our highest perfection and blessedness to bear the image of God."

Calvin says that the goal of our new birth is that we be like God and that His glory be displayed in our lives. In other words, you are to be a mirror to the world. In that mirror they are to see God's characteristics. You are to be displaying God's glory just like Moses did when he came down from the mountain. Exodus 34:29 says,

"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets
of the Testimony in his hands,
he was not aware that his face was radiant
because he had spoken with the LORD."

Moses' face was glowing. His contact with God had caused a great transformation.

What's interesting is that in 2 Corinthians 3 the apostle Paul tells you Christians that there is to be an even greater transformation in your life. Paul compares the glory of the Mosaic covenant with the new covenant we have in Christ. Paul makes the point that the new covenant is more glorious than the old. He writes, 2 Corinthians 3:7–11

"Now if the ministry that brought death,
which was engraved in letters on stone,
came with glory,
so that the Israelites could not look steadily
at the face of Moses because of its glory,
fading though it was,
will not the ministry of the Spirit
be even more glorious?
If the ministry that condemns men is glorious,
how much more glorious
is the ministry that brings righteousness!
For what was glorious has no glory now
in comparison with the surpassing glory.
And if what was fading away came with glory,
how much greater is the glory
of that which lasts!"

You Christians are to be reflecting God's glory in a way that far surpasses the people of the old covenant. In verse 18 Paul puts it this way,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

You are to be glorious. Glory is to be your state of being. You are to be reflecting God's glory by becoming more and more like Him.

You are to be glorious. We see a physical manifestation of this in Acts 6:15. Stephen had been arrested for preaching about Jesus and doing great signs and wonders. False witness came and accused Stephen of speaking against the Mosaic law the holy place. After they did this we read,

"All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin
looked intently at Stephen,
and they saw that his face
was like the face of an angel."

God actually made Stephen's face radiant, like Moses' face when he came down from receiving the law. God showed everyone that Stephen was not opposed to the Mosaic law.

There is definitely a physical aspect of the image of God. Before Adam and Eve sinned they were not clothed in the traditional sense. They were clothed with the image of God and that splendor or glory was their covering. It wasn't until after they sinned that the realized that they were naked. But in this fallen world the physical aspect of the image of God is usually hidden. You shouldn't expect to see halos on other Christians. Jesus was perfect, but His glory was mostly hidden while He was on this earth. The most prominent physical manifestation of it was on the Mount of Transfiguration. There His face shone like the sun and His clothes became dazzlingly white. On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were given a glimpse of the glory of our great Savior. But for the most part, during His earthly ministry, this glory was hidden, it was not visible to people. As Isaiah's prophecy tells us, (Isaiah 53:2–3)

"He had no beauty or majesty
to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance
that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows,
and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men
hide their faces he was despised,
and we esteemed him not."

So we are not to be focusing on any sort of physical manifestation of the image of God. Reflecting God's glory is not like putting on teeth whiteners, or outward makeup, or anything like that. It's a matter of a 'inner beauty', to use Peter's expression from 1 Peter 3.

The second thing we see from our text is that

reflecting God's character consists of true righteousness and holiness.

We are to be focusing on nothing less than reflecting the character of God. Paul writes,

"put on the new self,
created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness."

You are to show others what God is like. You are to show them certain of His characteristics. You are His representatives, His image-bearers on earth. This is an amazing concept. Mark Driscoll and Gerry Beshears write, (Doctrine, p. 118-119)

"we are not to reflect Adam, the culture, or even ourselves to the world. Rather, God has bestowed upon us the amazing ability and awesome responsibility to be his mirrors on the earth, reflecting his goodness and glory to all for his glory and our joy."

You are called to mirror God's characteristics to the world. Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 5:1,

"Be imitators of God, therefore,
as dearly loved children
and live a life of love,
just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us
as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

We imitate God by showing the world love and the other glorious characteristics that are part of His character. This reminds me of what Jesus said Matthew 5:16 Jesus said,

"In the same way,
let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven."

We imitate God by being like Him, by showing His character to other people. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–45

"You have heard that it was said,
'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you:
Love your enemies and pray
for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise
on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous
and the unrighteous."

We imitate God by being truthful. We imitate God by being holy, by hating sin and putting it out of our lives. We imitate God by being good. We imitate Him when we forgive others when they sin against us. We imitate Him when we bless those who curse us. We imitate Him when we do good to those who have done us evil. To use an image from Colossians 1:27, you are to live so that people will see,

"Christ in you,
the hope of glory."

Paul uses still another image in 2 Corinthians 3:3. He said to the Corinthians,

"You show that you are a letter from Christ,
the result of our ministry,
written not with ink
but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone
but on tablets of human hearts."

What's very important for us to understand in this respect is that

if you're going to imitate God you have to know Who He is and what He is like.

The characteristics I've mentioned so far are all attributes that the Bible attributes to God. If you're going to imitate God you have to have an accurate understanding of Who He is. Otherwise you'll reflect, not God, but some idol, some figment of your imagination. You'll remember in John 4:22 Jesus said to the Samaritan woman,

"You Samaritans worship
what you do not know;"

Last October the Campus Ministry Office of SUNY Canton sponsored a mural on which students could write their ideas about what spirituality was. Some of the things that were written were absolutely excellent and full of biblical truth. But I noticed that some of them were very self-centered. One was,

Spirituality is:

"Having the inner strength to be yourself."

Another was,

"Being in touch with the beauty of your inner self and sharing that beauty with all."

Still another wrote,

"The acceptance of yourself and the world around you."

Spirituality is not about being 'yourself' but being 'like God'.

How can we be like God?
We can only do it by bringing our inner being and our outward actions into line with His character and actions as we are taught in His Word.

There is a lot of confusion in our society about what God is like and what He wants for us. This is because many have rejected what the Bible tells us about God and His will. They have left the way of 'true righteousness and holiness. In it's place they have put their own desires and lusts.

The phrase Paul uses here, 'righteousness and holiness' refers to, (Peter T. O'Brien, Pillar Commentary, Ephesians)

"virtuous living as a whole".

John Calvin understands 'holiness' as relating to the first table of the Law, the commandments that relate to our duty to worship and honor God as we should, and 'righteousness' as relating to the second table of the law, the duty we owe to our fellowmen. If you let go of either, you've gone over into idolatry. That's exactly where some churches have gone today. True righteousness and holiness—that's what you are to put on, that's what you are to show the world. Never let go of God's Word.

The third thing we see from our text is that

this act of putting on the new man requires hard work from you.

You are to 'put off' the 'old man' and 'put on' the 'new man'. This is not an easy task. The corrupt nature that we inherit from Adam is entrenched and natural. The callings of the new nature—to be like God, to show people an accurate representation of what He is like—that's not easy.

Christians, work at it. It's one of your main callings. In each situation you're in, you're to say to yourself,

"I'm to show people what God is like by my attitude, my behavior and my reactions."

Never forget that. Work hard at it. Ask God to give you the grace. Ask Him to transform you from glory to glory.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, you should see from our passage that

you're missing out on the greatest thing that could happen to human beings.

Christians are being transformed. The body of death that they inherited from Adam is being done away with. They are being recreated, given new life. They are being made glorious and they are going to be raised up to glory. Their destiny is going to be fantastic. Jesus started with them when they were lowly sinners, heirs of death and misery. When Jesus is finished with them they will be made like Him and will be the heirs of life eternal.

But you, unless you go to Christ, you're going to miss out on all that. Your inner self is continuing to be corrupted by its deceitful desires. You're not going to get better, you're going to get worse. Corruption, misery and eternal death await you. How you will miss out. If you neglect these words that warned you for all eternity you will remember them and wish that you had heeded the warning.

It's not too late. Go to Christ. Embrace Him. Find life in Him.