The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Ephesians 4:17–5:2
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Ephesians 4:17-5:2
Date: August 12th, 2018; Pentecost 12; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
- We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
- This is the biblical truth that Dr. Martin Luther restored during the time of the Reformation.
- This wasn’t a new teaching that Luther introduced. It was - and is - the apostolic teaching that had been distorted and mangled.
- Luther restored the truth that we are saved, that forgiveness and eternal life is ours, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
- In other words, you don’t need to earn you salvation. In fact, you can’t earn your salvation. It’s impossible.
- Salvation is a gift from God that you receive by grace through faith.
- Some have accused Lutherans of what they call “cheap grace”. They think it’s too easy. They think it’s too cheap.
- But the truth of the matter is that Lutherans do not teach cheap grace.
- We teach what God has revealed to us in the Bible.
- The Bible reveals to us that grace is not cheap. It’s free!
- Grace is free, but it certainly is not cheap.
- Being a Christian involves sacrifice.
- Being a Christian involves commitment.
- Being a Christian involves discipline.
- Being a Christian is free – but it is not cheap.
- It’s a real temptation to abuse God’s grace and to take it for granted.
- When faced with temptation, we can think, “I know this is a sin, I know this is against God’s will – but I’m forgiven anyway. I’m going to go for it.”
- It’s a real temptation to become complacent and apathetic in our lives as Christians - to neglect God’s church, to neglect our spiritual lives, to neglect serving God and our neighbour.
- “I don’t have to do anything to earn my salvation – so I won’t do anything at all.”
- Sinning and not taking God’s Law seriously because we know we are forgiven, becoming complacent and apathetic in our lives as Christians because salvation is free - I would suggest that these are examples of so-called “cheap grace”.
- But this is not what Lutherans believe and teach. This is not what the Bible teaches.
- This type of thinking and living is dangerous. It can have consequences that are eternal.
- In our epistle lesson for this morning, St. Paul makes it very clear that we are not to abuse God’s grace by continuing in our sin. God’s grace is not a license to sin.
- He says that, as God’s people, we have a new nature and we are to live accordingly.
- St. Paul warns, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22).
- What exactly does he mean by our “old self”?
- He means our sinful nature that we continually struggle with and fight with, our sinful nature that has us turning away from God to focus on ourselves, our sinful nature that encourages us to forget God, forget everyone else – it’s all about me.
- Our old self is our sinful nature that leads to misery and death.
- St. Paul admonishes us to put off our old self, to fight our sinful nature.
- There is extreme danger when we stop resisting our old self and instead indulge it.
- Yes, our sinful nature causes great harm to ourselves and to others, there are earthly dangers and consequences to our sin - but our sin can also lead to our falling away from the faith.
- Sin embraced, unchecked, indulged can lead one to no longer fear, trust, and call upon God.
Preaching on our reading from Ephesians, Dr. Luther noted, “Here again is an admonition for Christians to follow up their faith by good works and a new life, for though they have forgiveness of sins through baptism, the old Adam still adheres to their flesh and makes himself felt in tendencies and desires to vices physical and mental. The result is that unless Christians offer resistance, they will lose their faith and the remission of sins and will in the end be worse than they were at first; for they will begin to despise and persecute the Word of God when corrected by it” (Luther’s Sermon for Trinity 19, 1544).
- This is serious. This is why St. Paul so strongly warns us of our old self in his letter to the Ephesians and in many of his other writings.
- Now, does St. Paul mean that if we try really hard we can completely overcome our old self? Does he mean that we can become sinless and perfect?
- No. Absolutely not. It’s impossible for us to be completely free from sin in this life.
- We are going to be in constant battle with our sinful nature for as long as we live.
- St. Paul reveals this in his letter to the Romans when he confessed, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).
- In this life we are simultaneously saint and sinner.
- In Christ we are saints - completely forgiven, righteous, and holy. In Christ, we do live our lives according to God’s will.
- Yet, at the same time, we are also sinner. We turn from God and do things that are against his will.
- We are all engaged in this battle.
- St. Paul urges us to keep fighting, to put away the old self and put on the new self.
- Put away your former manner of life that is filled with corruption and deceit. Do not be like one who has become callous and has given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
- Put on your new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
- And, fortunately for us, we are not left alone to fight this battle. We are not left alone to fight and resist our sinful nature.
- In fact, Christ has already won the battle for us - and his victory is ours through our baptism.
- In your baptism, God crucified your old self, your old sinful nature, that it might be brought to nothing, so that you would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:3-11).
- Through the washing waters of your baptism, God put Christ on you. We read in Galatians chapter 3, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
- Through your baptism God has put your new nature on you.
- And he doesn’t stop there.
- God gives you his Word and his true body and true blood to feed and nourish your new self.
- God sends his Holy Spirit to dwell in you and lead you.
- The battle between your old self and your new self is not a battle that you fight alone.
- God has provided you with all of the means, with everything necessary, that you will prevail.
- In Christ, this is who you are. In Christ, you love God above all things.
- In Christ, you love your neighbour as yourself.
- In Christ, you live your life according to God’s will. This is who you are. This is your new self. Put it on.
- And when your old sinful nature does get the best of you, when you do fall into sin (which you will), the Holy Spirit will lead you to repent.
- The Holy Spirit will lead you to trust in Christ’s forgiveness, to dust yourself off, and come forth again as your new self.
- The battle continues in this life. But the victory is won. The victory is yours.
- Put off your old self. You are a new creation after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Salvation is yours. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.