17 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. 18 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity,they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
(Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV)
As we recall from the beginning of chapter 4, Paul has switched gears, from talking about principles of the Christian faith in chapters 1 – 3, to talking about the practice of the Christian faith in chapters 4 – 6.
Paul started chapter 4 with the emphasis on the unity we have in Christ, and God’s desire for us to grow to maturity in Christ.
In today’s passage, Paul emphatically instructs the Ephesians (and us) to not live like those in the surrounding culture. Paul’s point is that this way of life will not get us to our goal of maturity in Christ, and unity with other believers. In fact, Paul tells us that it will take us away from our goal and create dis-unity within the body of Christ.
Paul’s first point is that the Gentiles (anyone in the surrounding culture that does not follow Christ) have a futile way of thinking. Paul goes on to describe this futility in their thinking:
- They have hardened their hearts towards God. They have purposely and intentionally chosen to walk away from the Lord and have nothing to do with Him.
- They are ignorant due to their choices. Because they chose to walk away form the Lord, and all the evidence of God loving them and desiring to have a relationship with them, they ignored the truth of God’s love for them and His rightful place in their lives. This affects every other area of their lives.
- They have separated themselves from God. The downhill slide continues – because they have hardened their hearts towards God, they have ignored the only source of truth that exists, and now have turned off the light of God’s influence in their lives, and willfully choose to wander around in the dark.
So what actions come from these choices?
Paul says that because of losing their sensitivity that came from having God’s influence in their lives, they became seekers of pleasure, running after sensuality and every kind of associated impurity. Greed and selfishness are their gods.
If we call ourselves followers of Christ, we have a choice to make. Either we live as Christ told us to live (and modeled for us), or we quit calling ourselves followers of Christ, because we are living for ourselves, to be in charge of our own lives and call our own shots, and be our own gods.
Paul says the choice is ours – whether we live for Christ, or live for ourselves. He insists that we must make a choice, and encourages us to live up to our calling and purpose in Christ.