In True Righteousness and Holiness

The Hardness of Hearts
Ephesians 4:17-19 ESV

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

Although the Scriptures clearly teach that the Christian life means that we no longer walk in the way of the flesh with hearts that are hard against the Lord and against the teachings of his word, many people professing faith in Jesus Christ are living just like this. They have turned their backs on the Word of God, and they are listening to the flesh of man instead.

They want to do what the flesh desires and so they turn their backs to God and to his word. And they listen to what is in their own hardened hearts, instead. They listen to a voice which tells them that they can’t learn, that they can’t change, that they can’t discipline themselves, and that they can’t be trained in the ways of God and be able to resist the flesh.

And so they yield to the flesh, and they give into the impulses of the flesh, and they act out what their emotions and their fleshly desires are telling them to do, and that it is okay to do, for this is what they have convinced themselves. So, they have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity (or very specific kinds of impurity).

And they end up doing what they say with their lips that they don’t want to do. And this is because of the hardness that is in their hearts, and the pride, and the bitterness of spirit which rises when confronted with their sins and of the need to change and to stop doing what they have been doing and to do the opposite (to make that spiritual U-turn).

And sadly this describes many people who profess faith in Jesus Christ who are turning their backs to God and to the Scriptures which they don’t want to hear, and this is so that they can listen to that voice inside their hardened hearts which is giving them excuses for why they can continue in their sinful and sensual practices, only now without guilt or remorse.

But this should not be! God is not okay with us living in sin and ignoring his instructions to us. And it should grieve us that so many who profess faith in Jesus Christ are listening to the flesh and not to the Spirit, and they are turning their backs to God and to his Word so that they can listen to the flesh and do what their flesh desires instead of what God requires.

The Truth in Jesus Christ
Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV

“But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Sadly, there are many people today learning Christ in just the way described in the section above. They are being taught that they can believe in Jesus Christ and have heaven guaranteed them as their eternal destiny but that they don’t have to repent of their sins or walk in obedience to the Lord or submit to him as Lord of their lives. For, they call that “works-based salvation.”

And so they are turning their backs to God and to his word while still professing him as Lord and as Savior of their lives, and while they continue to live to gratify the sinful cravings of their flesh without conscience, and now without guilt or remorse. Thus, they are giving lip service only to the Lord, for they are not following the Lord in surrender and in obedience.

So, the purpose of these instructions to us here is to remind us, or to tell us clearly if we did not hear the truth before, that we are called to holiness, to live lives which are separate (unlike, different) from the world and unto God and to his service, and that we are to forsake our sinful practices to follow our Lord in obedience. For this is what he requires of us.

For Jesus died on that cross for us to buy us back for God so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin but so we would now become slaves of God and of his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. And he died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness.

He didn’t die on that cross just to forgive us our sins and just to free us from the punishment of sin and just so we can go to heaven when we die. He died to free us from our slavery to sin. He died to eradicate sin from our lives. He died so that we can now walk no longer according to the flesh but now according to the Spirit in the power and working of God’s Spirit within us.

So, we must put off our old self which belongs to our former way of life. We are to no longer be feeding that old self and giving it reign in our lives. We should no longer be listening to the flesh, and we should definitely not be turning our backs on God and on his Word so that we can indulge in the sinful cravings of the flesh without guilt.

But we are to be changed in heart of mind of the Spirit of God away from living for the sinful cravings of the flesh to now desiring God and his righteousness. And the new self, which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, is what we should be applying to our daily lives if truly we have put off the flesh and if we have put on Christ.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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