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My Watermelon Sermon

We will see how long this lasts.  I am not a manuscript sermon guy, but want to be.  So here is Sunday’s Sermon in manuscript form.  I don’t normally go for the catchy sermon title:  Ephesians 4:25-32 was the official title, but a blog is a more titillating venue.

Ephesians 4:25-32

Truth in all of Life:  The Old Man vs. the New Man

4:15:  “speaking the truth in love”
4:17:  “walk no longer in the futility of the mind”
4:18:  “walk no longer in a darkened understanding”
4:18:  “walk no longer in ignorance”
4:20:  “we did not learn Christ in this way”
4:21:  “heard…taught…as truth is in Jesus”
4:22:  “lay aside old man…lusts of deceit”
4:23:  “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”
4:24:  “put on new man…created in righteousness and holiness of the truth”
4:25:  “laying aside falsehood, speak truth…”

There is a before and after.

This passage uses the Pauline imagery of the old man and the new man to speak of the before and after picture of the Christian experience.  There is a before and after for the believer.  I have a life before Christ, and a life in Christ.

Some characteristics of the before Christ life:

  • futility of mind (17)
  • darkened understanding (18)
  • exclusion from the life of God (18)
  • ignorance, hardness of heart (18)
  • callous (19)
  • sensuality  for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (19)
  • corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (22)
  • falsehood
  • anger coupled with sin
  • theft
  • unwholesome speech
  • bitterness
  • wrath
  • anger
  • clamor
  • slander
  • malice

And the significant change that characterizes the new man, in contrast with the old man, is truth (4:15, 21, 24, 25).  The old man is tyrannized by futile thinking (mind), darkened understanding, ignorance resulting from a hard heart, the lusts of deceit.  The new man is transformed by the truth, having been taught the truth which is Jesus Christ, and we are now “in Christ” or “in truth”.  The old man is “laid aside” (v. 22); the process by which this is accomplished has a negative and positive activity.  We lay aside the lusts of deceit (v. 22) and falsehood (v.25).  We put on the new self by the renewal of the mind (4:23; Romans 12:1-2).

I love the simplicity of the process as outlined here.   Paul uses 5 examples of laying aside falsehood and taking up truth:  Telling the truth; being angry without sinning; stealing versus giving; speech; grieving the Holy Spirit.   These examples serve as a model for all of our life.  This foundational, simple principle of truth is to be applied to the whole of life.  I like to use the synonym “integrity” when talking about truth in life.

A few word pictures for you to help with the understanding of truth as it is applied by Paul in these following examples.

A few weeks ago I spied a watermelon that Kelly had picked up at the store.  There is an art to picking a watermelon, and that art has to do with integrity.  A watermelon may look good on the outside, but since we can’t see on the inside we don’t know if it is good or not.  Hence, the science of watermelon thumping has evolved.  Some people are better at it than others.  My dad is a master watermelon thumper.  I am a journeyman.  My son’s are apprentices, my wife is a great cook.

So back to the story.  I spied the watermelon and my mouth began to water.  There is nothing better than a ripe, juicy, red watermelon on a hot Southern California day.  Out came the knife and I anxiously plunged into the flesh of the melon, expecting the familiar sounds of a crisp healthy fruit. You know, that firm resistant meat that begins to split and crack with kind of a popping sound and sensation?  Instead, I heard a sloshing kind of mush noise and I knew I was going to be disappointed.  Sure enough, the watermelon was overripe to the point of being inedible.

Another watermelon we got had all the promise of a good melon but was pink, without taste.

Both melons lacked integrity.  The outside offered something that the inside was unable to deliver.  You can see the truth issues.  You promised refreshment but delivered disappointment, and even worse a small bit of revulsion.  The outside told a lie about the inside.

One of my favorite tv shows is Holmes on Homes.  He is that contractor who goes into homes where contractors have done a shoddy job and homeowners are at wit’s end to know what to do with a half-finished or even worse badly constructed remodeling project.  Holmes comes in and reveals to the homeowners where the past contractor hid poor construction which resulted in whatever bad end product they were now stuck with.

The integrity of any structure has to do with the internal infra-structure.  I have done my fair share of painting and I often joke that I can hide the mistakes of the people who have gone before me, but I know that it is only cosmetic help that I can give.  If there are small flaws, sure, I can hide them in the finish job, but I can’t solve structural issues with paint.

Here is Paul’s major point:  You can’t change a person simply by whitewashing the outside.  It isn’t a new set of clothes, or even a new set of behaviors only!!! Rather, it is the transformation of the internal structures of a person ,and the main building blocks of life are the building blocks of truth.

In Ephesians we have been given the truth:
In Christ are all the blessings of God given.
Identity: we are sons and daughters of God through election and predestination
Redemption: we have forgiveness through the blood of Christ and the grace of God
Hope:  We have an inheritance sealed by the Holy Spirit in Christ to the glory of God
Purpose:  We were created to grow into the image of Christ to the glory of God; to accomplish good works as His workmanship
Life:  He has made us alive together with Him, raised us with Him, seated us with Him
Peace:  God is bringing all people together under His kingdom banner, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow

These truths are ours.  We live in them.  As a result of these great truths, since Christ himself is the truth and we are in Christ – Speak the truth.  Think the truth.  Live the truth.  That is the new infrastructure:  Christ in me.  This truth transforms me so that:

The New Man Speaks Truth

The believer is to “put on the new man, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another”  (Ephesians 4:24-25).

The activity with regard to the “old man” here in Ephesians is described as a “laying aside” (4:22, 25).  The activity with regard to the “new man” is described as a “putting on” (4:24).
I am not a fan of the NASB’s translation here in Ephesians 4 for Old/New “self” as they choose to translate “anthropos” in those places.  I prefer the translation, “man”.  This also applies in the parallel passages elsewhere in Paul’s writings, Romans 6, Colossians 3).

One of the characteristics of the old man is “falsehood”, we are told to lay it aside.  Speaking truth characterizes the new man, he is described here as a part of the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4 is a church context.  This reference regarding speaking truth each one with his neighbor is a quotation from Zechariah 8:16.

Let’s take a mundane and rather silly situation are our illustration for speaking truth.  You are at Starbuck’s minding your own business when an acquaintance comes in and buys a frothy drink.  As they are standing there talking with you they get some “whip on their lip”.  Do you tell them?

We have all been in this uncomfortable situation.  Here are your options:

  • Ignore the issue and be silent.
  • Tell them, but in an inappropriate manner.
  • Tell them, you are all grown up and can handle awkward.
  • If they ask, lie: “no you don’t have anything on your lip”

Now that is not a big deal, but it really sets out our options in other, more substantive situations.  Sometimes we approach larger issues and the same options apply.  The new man speaks truth to others.  We don’t ignore issues in the lives of other people but seek out ways to address our concerns.  We attempt to sharpen one another, keep each other accountable, bear one another’s burdens and encourage one another in faith and good deeds.  This is the essence of truth telling.  We tell people the truth in appropriate ways so that the name of Christ is glorified and the church is purified.

The sense in this verse is not simply telling the truth as opposed to “not lying.”  It isn’t a minimum requirement kind of truth telling.  It is the characterization of the kind of conversations that the new man has, they are conversations that are bathed in truth, especially the kind of truth that is referenced in the context.

The book of Proverbs is a great place to see what the essence of this truth talk is all about.  In Proverbs, truth often is expressed by the terms “wisdom” and “faithfulness” or “loyalty”.  For instance:  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” can just as easily be understood “true are the wounds of a friend.”  So telling the truth can be broadly defined I think as speaking words of wisdom, words that are bathed in wisdom – words that are faithful, they accomplish the purpose for which they are spoken.

I think this passage from Proverbs explains what Paul means in Ephesians about speaking truth beyond simply not lying to each other:

Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.
(Pro 8:6 ESV)

Wow.  Just walk through that passage: Are the words you speak noble? Filled with truth?Righteous? Are they rid of wickedness, crookedness, perversion.

A broader definition of speaking truth is in order for the New Man.  He is transformed in his thinking and living, and speaking.  He chooses his words carefully, they are forged by the word. They are true also in that they flow from a heart that is true and transformed by Christ.

Truth is the currency of the truly wealthy.

Buy truth and do not sell it;  buy wisdom, instruction and understanding (Pro. 23:23).

Related Proverbs:  9:9-10; 10:13, 19; 14:23; 30:7-9.

Next Week, we continue in Ephesians 4:25-32

  • The New Man Expresses Anger Without Sin
  • The New Man Gives
  • The New Man is Gracious
  • The New Man does not Grieve the Spirit

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