Ephesians 4:17 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. 18 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. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Do not walk any longer like the Gentiles do. The mark of God’s people has always been to be different from the surrounding cultures and practices in which they lived. The people of Israel called for a king because their desire was to be like the nations around them.
I Samuel 8:19-20 – 19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations … .
The call for the people of God to be different from the values and practices of those with whom they live, is unmistakable.
Romans 12:2 – 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
II Corinthians 6:14-18 – 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Philippians 3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
II Timothy 3:1 – But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people … 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.
II Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
I Peter 4:4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
Jude 17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Thus we have Ephesians 4:17… you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do
And thus, God has preserved this letter for us. This instruction is for us. And the God who commands it has enabled it. These verses are about walking worthy of our calling (4:1). This is what God has predestined us for. And this is what God will accomplish in His chosen, loved children.
And if we take anything out of this text is it should be this – the grace of God at work in believers means that they can say “no” to sin. He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And not even a godless, self absorbed culture that surrounds us and opposes what we believe can make true children of God live less than holy. If we are not living in holiness, it is not a wicked culture’s fault.
This means, at the very least, that it does not matter in the least little bit how bad or immoral or sin accepting the world may become in order for us to live a God pleasing life – the church can be different. Paul does not say “Find a tropical island somewhere and start your own little civilization free from the influences of the unwashed masses”. He does not say that as long as the culture doesn’t get too bad then we can manage to live in a God pleasing fashion. He does not say that we are excused from our immorality on the basis that the world just got too wicked for us to live as holy as originally intended. And he does not say that the call of the church is to make sure prayer is said in school or the ten commandments are prominent in public places. He says to a people surrounded by immorality and godlessness and impurity and covetousness – “Don’t have even a trace of it named among you.”
Blaming others for our sins is one of the first places of refuge we run to when we get caught in a sin. The Scriptures simply will not allow us to go there. The One who lives within us is greater than the one who lives in the world. God is not sending us on a fool’s errand when He tells us to be different. It can be done. It will be done. He has a plan to save a vast multitude of people. His plan shall not fail. God shall have a holy people.
We should use everything that God has provided for us in our struggles against sin. The first and greatest is the power of the cross in our daily lives. The second is to remember that we are dead to sin and we can reckon ourselves dead to it (Romans 6:1-2, 11). The next is to never, ever, fight alone (Hebrews 3:12-13). God saves us and puts us in the company of others. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian, unless, of course it is those suffering for their faith at the brutal hands of others.
The call is to be different. It is costly and it is difficult (Matthew 7:13-14). But He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) . He who called us is faithful and He will do it (I Thessalonians 5:23-24). He is able to keep us from falling and present us faultless before His throne in glory (Jude 24-25). Jesus will lose none of all whom the Father has given Him (John 6:37-41).
We are without excuse. And we are equipped with supernatural resources. We can be different.