My Bible reading has taken me into Kings and Chronicles, and one thing that has repeatedly struck me is how the good Kings (although there were a few) obeyed God only in part. The Bible repeatedly states that this good king or that good king eradicated evil or Baal worship out of Israel or Judah, but never went the whole way in removing the high places or the golden calves or the altars on which sacrifices to those false gods were offered.
This got me to thinking about us. How many times do we determine to stop a particular habit or to rid ourselves of a bothersome vice only to quit when we have attained some measure of success? We go most of the way and repenting of our idolatry, but we don’t go the whole measure, and we leave ourselves open to being polluted by those sinful ties that continue to bind. Ephesians 4: 22 says, “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit…”
What are things from your former manner of life you hold onto? Are they sinful patterns of thinking such as having a critical spirit, harsh judgment or pride? Are they sinful patterns of living such as foolishness, coarse joking, sinful language, sexual immorality, alcohol or drug abuse?
All of these things are aspects of idolatry and are most certainly part of the old self which the Scripture says is continually being corrupted. It might be hard for you to imagine yourself as being continually corrupted, but you are! The longer you stay in contact with ties that bind you to your old life, to your previous sinful ways, the more corrupt internally you will become. The internal corruption will lead to external corruption and will be visible in how you are living your life.
Two words that are of importance in Ephesians 4: 22, are “being corrupted”. This phrase indicates corruption is of an ongoing nature and it is in accordance with your deceitful lusts of the heart. We know that the heart is never satisfied with wickedness, and that our selfish and sinful lusts are also insatiable when given their own way (Ecc. 9:3). In other words, the more you feed it, the bigger it grows! There is a reason that Paul says that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (1 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 5:9)!
In the rest of this passage, Paul hits on a few of the most common things with which we struggle. He tells us not to lie to one another; he tells us not to sin in our anger, we are admonished to work instead of being lazy. He addresses of our language and tells us only to speak things that build each other up. He admonishes us to get rid of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander along with all malice (Eph. 4:25-31). These are things that I see troubling people every day. These are the most common of the common to man sins (1 Corinthians10: 13).
If we wish to rid ourselves of them, it must, of course, begin within, at the heart level (Matt. 15:18-20). We must desire to stop participating in the sins and then leave no place for them to grow. If it means we disconnect from social media, or we stop watching Netflix, or we even separate ourselves from people in our lives who feed the desires for these sinful things, then so be it (Rom. 6:13; 8:13).
I am convinced that we do not take personal sin seriously enough. We presume upon the grace of God and pretend like our sin doesn’t really matter. We have been given many stern warnings in Scripture to turn away from our sin, and we had better pay attention to them (Rom. 2:5-6; Luke 3:9; Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). We must not presume upon the grace of God nor should we take the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf lightly (Heb. 10:26). Let us get serious about repentance and change. Oh, may we truly hate our sin! Join me, and call upon the Lord to help you to take an honest look inside as I am doing. Let us ask Him to reveal where we continue to worship idols, and then let’s get busy knocking down the high places in our hearts. We must remove all of the idols, and we must stop feeding the lusts of deceit.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (ESV)