Off and On

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
10 March 2019

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Series — Re:Lent – A Time to Give Up
Ephesians 4:17-5:21

[sketch notes & talking points]


This is the season of Lent. As you know, many Christians throughout the world give up something for Lent — meat, social media, chocolate, stuff like that. According to a twitter Lent tracker, most Christians who practice Lent are giving up social networking, alcohol, twitter, chocolate, and in fifth place: Lent.

While we mark the season of Lent, we do not practice it the way others do. It matters not to me whether you give up some thing like facebook or hot cheetos for Lent.

What matters to me is that you give up your sins and your self for the Lord.

Today we are starting a new mini-series called called Re:Lent. This is a time to give up.

The goal of the series is to help us give up our sins for the Lord and give up ourselves to the Lord.

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. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

A few weeks ago we explored the gracious work of the triune God in Ephesians 1. We heard and I hope learned the truth about the doctrine of election. God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Why? For what purpose? “That we should be holy and blameless before him.”

For the next few weeks we will learn how to live as God’s chosen people and become holy and blameless before the face of God.


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.

Here Gentile refers to people outside of Christ and the church.

From an evangelical point of view there are only two races of men — not Jews and Gentiles, but sinners and saints.

By nature Adam is the fountainhead of all the nations, the children of wrath. By grace Christ is the fountainhead of the new Israel, the children of mercy. (Calvin)

Since Gentile Christians were adopted into God’s household, baptized into Christ’s body, and constructed into the Spirit’s temple, we are members of true Israel — set apart for God’s sacred purposes (see Eph. 2:11-22).

Therefore, as members of the body of Christ, we must be careful to walk before the face of God as the new true and better Israel, not like the nations.

That means we must mark the antithesis between us and the world.

Sadly, the lines are often blurred, making it difficult if not impossible to tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians.

Positively, we are urged “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (4:1-2).

Negatively, we are urged “to walk no longer as the Gentiles do” (4:17). We must be imitators of God. To be more specific, imitators of Jesus Christ. More on that in a moment.


18 [The Gentiles walk 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. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Note: This does not mean that unbelievers have low IQs. No, as we all know, many unbelievers have super high IQs. By God’s common grace, many unbelievers are gifted intellectually and creatively.

So Paul is not saying that we are smarter or better than pagans.

He is saying that when it comes to knowing and understanding the triune God, people outside Christ are groping around in the dark. People who are still dead in their sins are excluded from the life of God. They are out of their depth and in over their heads when it comes to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This is true for grumpy militant atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens and genteel wannabe Christians like Jordan Peterson. Hitchens ran from God as loud and fast as he could; Peterson seems to be walking towards God as slowly and carefully as possible.

[Psychology of the Natural Man – The old self is devoid of the Spirit. He is a dead-man walking in trespasses and sins. His mind and heart are twisted and perverted by sin. He is an exile from God, held captive by the power of the devil. His mind is hostile toward God, blinded by the god of the age. He is unwilling to accept the things that come from the Spirit and unable to understand them.]

Like Adam, the old self is natural and earthly. It is being devastated and deformed by sin inside and out.

As a result, they devote themselves to themselves. They do whatever seems right in their own eyes, whatever feels good in their flesh.

See Rom. 8:6-7; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-3


20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.

Notice that Christ disciples his people. The truth is in Jesus.

God’s chosen people must learn Christ, not just Christianity. You must hear Christ, not just things about Christ. You must be taught by Christ, “for faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of Christ.”

Christ disciples his followers by means of his word and Spirit. Christ teaches his church by means of human pastors and teachers. Christ is the cornerstone, the apsotles and prophets are the foundation, and the church is the temple of the triune God — the pillar and ground of the truth. (Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Tim. 3:15)

Christ sends out ministers of the word into the world to make disciples of all nations. They proclaim Christ to us, they baptize us into Christ’s body, and they teach us to obey the words of Christ.

Christ calls his chosen people to himself by means of gospel preaching. In a nutshell, Paul is talking about effectual calling. Christ speaks to his people in his word, and by the grace of the Spirit, his people hear his voice. They turn from self and trust the Savior.

“Let us understand that Jesus Christ is the goal to which God the Father calls us.” (Calvin’s 9th sermon on Ephesians 4)

Thus, we come to a personal-relational saving knowledge of Christ by the Spirit and word of God.

See Mat. 28:18-20; Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-8 


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 righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Jesus is the standard. The truth of Jesus is the rule of faith and life. The truth requires us to change, to live a life of repentance.

Passive / Renovation of mind is something that happens to us. Work of the Spirit. Results in practical repentance — change of thinking. Repentance is putting off the natural mind and putting on the spiritual mind.

Active / Repentance is putting off whatever belongs to the old nature and putting on whatever belongs to the new man — the righteousness and holiness of the truth of Jesus Christ.

The truth requires us to re:lent — to give up our sins for the Lord and to give up ourselves to the Lord.

Personal Experience / Wardrobe Crisis?

You stare at your clothes and feel like you’ve got a closet full of nothing to wear. Or you put one thing on after another but nothing seems to fit. Ever have one of those days? Have you ever kept clothes for sentimental reasons? Or because you might be able to fit into them again someday? Or you might need it for a special occasion? Have you ever made yourself pull things off the rack, stuff them into a trash bag, and give them away?

You know where this is going, right?

According to the scriptures, this is a time to re:lent — to give up our old self and our old sins; it is time to refresh and renew. Do some spring cleaning. It is time to “live in a way that is consistent with our new identity in Christ”. (Thielman)

[Psychology of the Spiritual Man — The new self is a Christian, filled with the Spirit. He is a new creation, renewed in the knowledge of God the Creator and Savior. His life is transformed as his mind, heart, and will are being renewed.]

Like Christ, the new self is spiritual and heavenly. It is being renewed and reformed by God inside and out.

See Rom.12:1-2; Col.3:9-10


The language of ‘putting off/putting on’ should remind us of our baptismal experience.

Baptism is a metaphor of the Christian life — an existential sign of an eternal reality.

Baptism is a means by which God consecrates us to himself. Baptism is a sign and seal of our disuniting from Adam and uniting to Christ; it signifies that we were transported from the dominion of sin and death under Adam to the realm of grace and life under Christ; it signifies that the old self was crucified with Christ and the new self was resurrected with Christ to walk in newness of life; the rags of Adam were put off and the robes of Christ were put on.

See Rom. 6:4-7; Eph. 5:25-26; Gal. 3:26-27


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: even Lent.

Lent is a time to die to yourself;
a time to pluck up sins that are deeply rooted;
a time to kill your sin;
a time to break down old habits;
a time to weep over your sins and the sins of the world;
a time to mourn your weakness and brokenness;
a time to cast away stones that weigh you down;
a time to refrain from embracing your passions and lusts;
a time to lose your life that you may find it;
a time to cast away your sins and shame;
a time to tear off your guilt and fear;
a time to keep silence and listen to the Spirit of Christ;
a time to hate your sin, the flesh, and the devil;
a time for war against them.

Re:Lent is a time to put off the old dead man and put on the new living man.

In this season of Lent, I urge you, as baptized Christians, to fight the good fight of the faith. Pick a fight with the sins that plague you most.

Wage war on them. Show them no mercy. Give them no quarter.

Confess your sin to God. Ask him to forgive you and to fight with you and for you to defeat and destroy this sin. Confess your sin to one another. Ask some brothers and sisters to fight with you and for you.

Pastoral Prayer based on Ephesians 3

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.