Ephesians 4:17-21 “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord that you no longer walk as the other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness and greediness but you have not so learned Christ if it be that you have heard Him and have been taught by Him as the Truth is in Jesus.” Introduction: At this time in the history of the world, Syrians are killing Syrians as the crisis in Syria rages on. The international community almost unanimously acknowledges that the Syrian government has used deadly chemical weapons on its own citizens. It is also acknowledged that various factions, including Iran, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other groups have entered into the fray in Syria. The Russians, too, are joining with the Syrian government to keep it propped up. The international news sources have reported with what can only be described as “relief” that the United States has “relented” in making a military strike of some sort on Syria in some as yet unclear “punishment” of Syria and “support” of the forces fighting against the Syrian government. Apparently, Russia has brokered an agreement between Syria and the United States military and other “global” forces which requires Syria to “account for” and “turn over for destruction” Syria’s allegedly massive stockpile of chemical weapons. The United States government continues to lurch seemingly from one crisis to another. Although the continuing resolution necessary to “keep the government open”, and although the United State’s government has now extended the debt limit, which now is in excess of sixteen point seven (16.7) trillion dollars and growing daily, the continuing resolution extends the time only to January 2014. There appears to be no one capable of leadership, whether one believes oneself to be a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a progressive, or any other label which one chooses to place on oneself. Is God’s Word not true when it says: “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” (Is. 9:16)? The United States has taken no action resulting from the murder of our Ambassador in Benghazi, and the killing of the valiant young men who, unlike our so-called “leaders” attempted to come to his rescue. The United States seems to be unable to determine what its policy is, or ought to be, with regard to the continuing crisis in Egypt. The United States seems incapable of formulating any policy with regard to Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. The continuing development of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea, as well as the means to deliver them seems to have completely stymied the American government. Many in Congress (both Republicans and Democrats) continue to warn against the “coming train wreck” resulting from the continued, and apparently out of control, spending which makes the continuing mere extension of the debt limit seemingly even more critical because we are spending with borrowed money. Even though revenues are up, it is as if the coffers used to collect the revenues have no bottom in them and the revenues escape before they can be intelligently spent. As more and more people realize the truth regarding the so called “Affordable Healthcare Act” (which has now been tagged with the nomenclature of “Obama Care”), it is becoming increasingly clear that it is neither affordable nor providing healthcare which is better than before the Act. Indeed, the reports have continued to pour in from all over the United States of people who cannot even get on the governmental website in order to determine what their plan and costs are supposed to be. No one really seems to know what is going on, although nearly everyone is aware of the near universal reports that everybody’s healthcare benefits are going to “increase in price” not decrease- some by as much as 80% or 90%. Whether the crises occurring in the American government are based on stupidity or lack of knowledge, is not clear. One thing, however, is clear. The present administration and many others, continue to advance and promote the killing of tiny human beings under the banner of “women’s healthcare issues”; continue to promote the advancement of sodomy and ungodliness, under the banner of “same-sex marriages”; continue to advance and promote lewd and lascivious conduct (both heterosexual and homosexual) and is seemingly unable to prevent the random, growing, heinous acts of killings of school children, joggers, and others. Such random and vicious acts of violence are nearly always met with the same old tired refrain of the “new need for gun control” and for some new and other way to “prevent these things from ever happening again”! All of these things are, however, directly related to the continued ongoing efforts to eradicate the God of the Bible from all aspects of American life. Bible reading however, in public schools has been precluded. Prayer in public schools has been precluded. The Obama Administration precluded Franklin Graham from speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast. Even churches in many instances are buying into this secularization of society. Many churches have intentionally quit preaching the Gospel of Christ; quit preaching doctrine; begun to preach that we all serve the same God and that we need to just “get along”; we must learn to be more tolerant, because we live in a secular society and are even designing worship services for the pagans. On September the nineteenth in sixteen Jesuit journals worldwide, the new Roman Catholic Pope, Francis, called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage, and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away; Francis has also been reported to have said that Muslim, Hindus, and other faiths all worship the same God that he worships and Francis has even been quoted as saying that atheists if they are good will also go to heaven! My Goodness Gracious! The point has seemingly been reached in the United States of America, as well as other countries, where nearly every level of government is antithetical to the God of the Bible and to godliness as proclaimed by the Holy Bible. Why? What in the world is going on? Many in the churches who are in positions to “shepherd the flock of God” are not doing so. A few years ago in a sermon, commenting on I Corinthians 1:18-28, Alistair Begg, the Pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio said that we do not expect to hear from the pulpit the following: “The bright ideas of men; their rambling thoughts; their theorizing or speculation; their sloganeering or manipulation; their tall stories or emotionalism. But, we expect to hear spirit filled, Christ exalting, Bible based, life-implanting instruction, and direction from God, through the words of a spokesman which impresses upon his listeners the power of the text and not the performance of the preacher.” Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones is reported to have said in the late 50’s that “the business of the church and of preaching is not to present us with new and interesting ideas. It is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths.” Alistair Begg quoted Emel Bruner in November of 2005, when he said, “at every period in the history of the church, the greatest sin of the church or the one that causes the greatest distress is that she withholds the gospel from the world and from herself. She does not know the reason for her own existence and consequently has no real message for the present situation.” What is going on?
The Holy Scripture quoted above from Ephesians chapter four tells us both why the things that we are observing are happening, as well as, giving us the proper remedy to correct the situation. While the great Apostle Paul was directing his message to the Christians who lived in Ephesus, God’s Holy Word, is also directed to us. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Lord God changes not! We don’t have to come up with some new and innovative plan. The Lord God has given us the message. Our job is to be obedient and to proclaim the message! The Apostle Paul is also giving us in this passage of scripture what is the life of everyone who is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (everyone else). Thus, according to Paul’s great letter to the church at Rome, the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel of Christ is utterly necessary for one to become a believer. According to scripture in the second chapter of Ephesians, everyone who is not a believer, is “dead in their trespasses and sins; they are by nature children of wrath; they are by nature without Christ; aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; strangers from the covenants of promise; without any hope and without God in the world!” What an absolute disastorious position to be in. Thus, what God’s Holy Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to write is an admonition and an explanation. It is an admonition that those who profess to be in Christ walk not as unbelievers walk. The Apostle explains how it is that “other gentiles” walk which is also the way that any unbeliever walks. What is the unbelievers “walk”?
This description “in the vanity of their mind” actually means that their minds are empty. Their thoughts are vain. In Isaiah fifty-five (55), God admonishes Israel that “your thoughts are not My thoughts saith the Lord, neither are your ways My ways……” We are told in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…..” We are also told in the same Epistle to “think on those things that are true, and that are honest, and that are just, and that are pure, and that are lovely, and that are of good report, and that are virtuous, and that are praise worthy. This is what we are to think on. We cannot think on these things unless we have been born again. Otherwise, we are still “dead in our trespasses and sins”. We are still “by nature children of wrath”. As Jesus said, “we must be born again”. Activity does not make one a Christian, nothing short of the power of God can create a new heart; can cause one to be a new creation in Christ Jesus and can make one to be “born again”.
Their understanding is darkened because they have no light. Jesus Himself described Himself as “the Light of the world.” He is the True Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world who place their trust in Him and surrender their will to Him. Otherwise, because of the fall of man, the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our initial ancestors, every person has in their DNA this so-called “death- gene”. Every person is by nature a child of wrath. Every person is by nature dead in their trespasses and sins. The good news is that God who is rich in mercy with His great love wherewith He has loved us can make one alive in Jesus. It is important to understand that until that occurs, every person’s understanding is darkened. They have no light.
Not only is every unbeliever walking in the “vanity of their mind” that is, an emptiness of the knowledge God. Not only do they also have their “understanding darkened”, that is, they have no light, they are dead in their trespasses and sins and by nature children of wrath. But they also are alienated from the life of God. What this means, is, that they are as scripture describes it, at enmity with God. They do not have the life of God in them. It is God’s own life, the divine nature that He puts within His children, as He comes and makes His abode with all those that the Father has given to the Son, that is all those who are born again. If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things are becoming new. This is because the Lord God Himself through God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and God the Father comes and makes His abode in His people. This is what a Christian is. This is what the believer has to look forward to. As the Apostle Peter says in his second epistle, “whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Peter 1:4) We have become partakers of the divine nature by God’s sovereign work of creation of causing us to be born again. What a privilege! This is the life which comes from God. It is the life which God gives. Pagans, unbelievers, non-Christians, all are utter strangers from that life, entirely separated from it because they are “aliens from the life of God”! They cannot even receive the things of God because such things are spiritually discerned. Therefore, what we see happening in the United States of America, in the world as it is reported to us, is no mystery but it’s simply a disclosure that this is natural. There is no wisdom apart from God. There is no knowledge and understanding apart from God. Is it, therefore, any wonder, that we have so many ungodly things happening in our society today? Men are searching for something. Mankind is searching for something, but he cannot find it. He has become alienated from the life of God! Man is given to idolatry. Man will worship something. In ancient times, and in some places to this day, men made their own gods. They made them sometimes out of wood, or, stone or precious metals, but they made their own gods. Men are still doing that to this day. Sometimes it is a worship of oneself; a worship of one’s family; a worship of one’s country; a worship of wealth; and, indeed, a worship of anything in an effort to find “happiness”. Man is ever-searching for “the unknown god” according to scripture. The scripture tells us that “the world by wisdom knew not God.” Man is in effect in this wilderness, in this unhappy life and he is unsatisfied. He is miserable, he is wretched, and he is alienated from the life of God. He has, therefore, lost all sense of value and does not realize his own true nature nor what his value is. Man’s greatest need is his need of God and the knowledge of God and sharing in the life of God! This is epitomized by the immortal statement of Augustine, speaking of God, “thou has made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”! Well, the Apostle Paul also directs in this same passage of scripture the reason that man is alienated from the life of God. There are two reasons given; (1) ignorance; and, (2) blindness:
Why is the unbeliever alienated from the life of God? First, we see through the ignorance that is in them. It is ignorance that keeps unbelievers alienated from the life of God. The Lord Jesus Himself says in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John “this is eternal life that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent”. Clearly, we are living in a day and age when you almost have to try not to be informed of all sorts of things. Television, magazines, newspapers, the internet, all bombard us with information, and yet we see right here in this passage of scripture that the unbeliever is ignorant. What is it that they are ignorant of? Obviously, as we see from John Chapter seventeen they are ignorant of God Himself. They do not know Him. They do not know the Holy Truth. They do not know that God has poured out His wrath on all of mankind with a worldwide flood and judged and punished man’s disobedience. They do not know that God will punish sin and they do not know to flee the wrath of God, much less how to flee the coming wrath of God. Only the TRUTH will help them. The Truth, is Jesus Himself. They must come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender of their will to His will. The unbeliever is ignorant of the fact that God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal unchanging truth, “bore our sin in His own body on the cross that we might be dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness and with His stripes we are healed”. They are ignorant of the fact that they must appropriate this great sheer gift unto themselves. They are ignorant of the fact that they cannot do so through good deeds, organizations, or any other human endeavor. They must cast themselves upon the Lord for He cares for them. They must confess their sin, surrender their will to the Lord’s will, and place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. They are ignorant of all of this.
Not only are they ignorant, but they are blind in their hearts. They are literally blind spiritually, but the blindness that is referred to here is really directed at the hardness of their heart. The actual word that the Apostle used here is not blindness (although indeed we are blind and dead and can’t hear in our natural unbelieving state) but the word actually means “hardness” or “hardening” according to Dr. D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones. Lloyd-Jones says that “not merely is the heart hard, it has become callus,” the covering of the heart, the lining, has become thick and hard, endurated and fibrous, it is a kind of medical term. Because of the blindness or hardness of their heart they cannot hear the Truth, they will not receive the Truth, and they have a stony heart.The good news is they do not have to remain in that condition. This is the very essence of evangelism. Those of us who know the Truth must speak the Truth. When we realize that the unbeliever is dead. The unbeliever is blind. The unbeliever is empty in his mind. His understanding is darkened. He is actually alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him or her because of the blindness or hardness of their heart it directs us to use the correct means of evangelism. That is, God’s power unto salvation! The True Gospel of Jesus Christ. This helps us to connect the dots as to what is going on in America today. The Gospel is not being preached. Prayer and Bible reading is outlawed in public schools and rapidly becoming so in public places. No public statements of God are being allowed. We have so-called political leaders who are acting as if they do not have good sense (and indeed they do not because they are in the vanity of their minds- their minds are empty!) Thus we see that throughout the scriptures, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the heart of the problem in America, as well as around the world, is the problem of the heart. This condition of the heart is always before us as the ultimate trouble with man who is an unbeliever. In Ezekiel chapter thirty-six (36) verse twenty-six (26), the Lord God gives the promise of the good news that is yet to come. “A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” It is clearly stated in scripture that the heart is no longer supple, it has become like a stone. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews references the exodus and the same condition in Hebrews chapter three (3) where he says: “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith), today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said they do always err in their heart; they have not known my ways. So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest.”Then the writer goes on to say, “take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin for we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast until the end; while it is said today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” There we see from Hebrews chapter three (3) that the difficulty with the unbeliever is not merely his intellect, but his mind is empty, his understanding is darkened because he does not have the life of God, he is alienated from the life of God because he does not have the life of God flowing in him, he is ignorant of the fact that he does not have the life of God flowing in him and his heart is hard and even if he could realize it he will not receive it.
On December the second, eighteen fifty-five (1855) at the New Park Street Chapel in Southwark England a young preacher by the name of Charles Haden Spurgeon addressed the passage of scripture found in the Gospel of John chapter five (5) verse forty (40), which says “and you will not come unto Me, that you might have life”. This description is particularly aimed at the hardness of the heart. C. H Spurgeon went on to talk about the destination of those who “will not come unto Christ that they might have life”: In describing the condition of eternal death, Spurgeon said the following: “Oh! had I words that I might this morning attempt to depict to you what eternal death is. The soul has come before its Maker; the book has been opened; the sentence has been uttered; “Depart ye cursed” has shaken the universe, and made the very spheres dim with the frown of the Creator; the soul has departed to the depths where it is to dwell with others in eternal death. Oh! how horrible is its position now. Its bed is a bed of flame; the sights it sees are murdering ones that affright its spirit; the sounds it hears are shrieks, and wails, and moans, and groans; all that its body knows is the infliction of miserable pain! it has the possession of unutterable woe, of unmitigated misery. The soul looks up. Hope is extinct- it is gone. It looks downward in dread and fear; remorse hath possessed its soul. It looks on the right hand- and the adamantine walls of fate keep it within its limits of torture. It looks on the left- and there the rampart of blazing fire forbids the scaling ladder of e’en a dreamy speculation of escape. It looks within and seeks for consolation there, but a gnawing worm hath entered into the soul. It looks about it- it has no friends to aid, no comforters, but tormentors in abundance. It knoweth naught of hope of deliverance; it hath heard the everlasting key of destiny turning in its awful wards, and it hath seen God take that key and hurl it down into the depth of eternity never to be found again. It hopeth not; it knoweth no escape; it guesseth not of deliverance; it pants for death, but death is too much its foe to be there; it longs that non-existence would swallow it up, but this eternal death is worse than annihilation. It pants for extermination as the laborer for his Sabbath; it longs that it might be swallowed up in nothingness just as would the galley slave long for freedom, but it cometh not- it is eternally dead. When eternity shall have rolled round multitudes of its everlasting cycles it shall still be dead. For-ever knoweth no end; eternity cannot be spelled except in eternity. Still the soul seeth written o’er its head, “Thou art damned forever.” It heareth howlings that are to be perpetual; it seeth flames which are unquenchable; it knoweth pains that are unmitigated; it hears a sentence that rolls not like the thunder of earth which soon is hushed- but onward, onward, onward, shaking the echoes of eternity- making thousands of years shake again with the horrid thunder of its dreadful sound—“Depart! depart! depart! ye cursed!” This is the eternal death.
The good news is there is not eternal death but eternal life in Christ Jesus. If eternal death is terrible, eternal life is blessed! Spurgeon, in describing the condition of eternal life said the following: “There has never been and there never will be a man or woman who came to Christ for eternal life who has not received it who will not have received it, [and indeed Spurgeon went on to say] has not already received it, in some sense, and it was manifested to him that he had received it soon after he came. Let us take one or two texts-“He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto him.” Every man who comes to Christ will find that Christ is able to save him- not able to save him a little, to deliver him from a little sin, to keep him from a little trial, to carry him a little way and then to drop him- but able to save him to the uttermost extent of his sin, unto the uttermost length of his trials, the uttermost depths of his sorrows, unto the uttermost duration of his existence. Christ says to everyone who comes to Him, “Come, poor sinner, thou needst not ask whether I have power to save. I will not ask thee how far thou hast gone into sin; I am able to save thee to the uttermost.” And there is no one on earth who can go beyond God’s “uttermost.” “Now another text: Him that cometh to me, [mark the promises are nearly always to the coming ones] I will in no wise cast out.” Every man that comes shall find the door of Christ’s house opened- and the door of His heart too. Every man that comes- I say it in the broadest sense- shall find that Christ has mercy for him. The greatest absurdity in the world is to want to have a wider gospel than that recorded in Scripture. I preach that every man that believes shall be saved- that every man who comes shall find mercy. . If a man is not chosen he will never come. When he does come it is a sure proof that he was chosen. I say every man who comes to Christ shall be saved. I can say that as plainly as you can say it. “Every man that cometh shall be saved, for no man cometh to me except the Father draw him.” “But,” says one, “suppose all the world should come, would Christ receive them?” Certainly, if all came; but then they won’t come. I tell you all that come- aye, if they were as bad as devils, Christ would receive them; if they had all sin and filthiness running into their hearts as into a common sewer for the whole world, Christ would receive them.” Spurgeon went on to say in 1855 that “it is a sin that will always be charged to men; when they will not come unto Christ it is the sin that keeps them away. He who does not preach that, I fear is not faithful to God in his conscience. Go home, then, with this thought; “I am by nature so perverse that I will not come unto Christ, and that wicked perversity of my nature is my sin. I deserve to be sent to Hell for it.” And if the thought does not humble you, the Spirit using it, no other can. God humble us all. Amen.”
We have seen the multitude of problems facing America, and indeed other countries in the world. We lurch from one crisis to another seemingly with no plan or purpose as to how to solve the problems and how to get out of them. We have seen that the problems that are facing America are simply the results of the ungodliness that has grown exponentially within our country, as well as other countries. Identifying the problem also in this case identifies the solution. “Walk not as unbelievers walk in the vanity of their minds, having their understanding darkened and being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart.” The solution is to come to Jesus. All who will come can come. Pray that many will come. Pray for all of those in authority over us that many will come. Pray that they will surrender their will to the Lord’s will and place their trust in Jesus alone for their salvation. That their minds will no longer be empty and their understanding darkened. Pray that God would cause them to be born again and to impart in them His own life and make them partakers of the divine nature. Jesus Himself said “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) You do not want to experience eternal death. You do not want to experience the wrath to come. Flee to Jesus. And pray that there would be a great awakening in this country and that many would come to Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
He is able to make all grace abound toward you so that you having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work. “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty and dominion and power both now and forever more.” Amen! Your Friend and Brother in Christ,Bill Gray
Worldview Weekend Foundation
PO BOX 1690
Collierville, TN, 38027 USA