What are you putting off?

(The following is a summary of the message that was preached on October 20, 2019.)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

(Ephesians 4:25-32)

Two important reasons for putting off the old self

1) Don’t give the devil a foothold

When you keep living as a person who doesn’t know Christ, you give the devil a foothold. You know what a foothold is? Have you been watching the World Cup Rugby? You would have seen that whenever the teams have a scrum, the players get a foothold.

They dig their feet deep into the grass, and then they can push with all their power against the other team.

When you don’t put off your old self, you’re giving the devil a foothold. The devil can plant his feet and push against you with all his strength, and you’re going to get knocked around.

The Devil can come into your life and wreak havoc in your family, in the place where you work, in your neighbourhood. And when all these terrible things start happening to you, and you cry out to God and ask, “Lord, why is all this stuff happening to me!?”, do you know what the reason could be? You’ve given the devil a foothold.

If you don’t put off that old self, and you keep lying, and getting angry, and speaking badly about people and doing all these things, the devil is going to plant his foot right in the middle of your life, and he is going to cause you so much trouble.

Put off the old self so that you don’t give the Devil a foothold.

2) Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God

When you do not put off the old self, when you keep living like person who doesn’t know Christ, you cause the Holy Spirit pain and grief and sorrow. Did you know that the Lord feels grief? The first time we read about that is in Genesis. Right after God had created the world, Adam and Eve disobeyed him and ate the fruit, and then they had children and their children had children and they just kept getting worse and worse. Until we read this:

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was altogether evil all the time. And the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)

The Lord had made a good, beautiful creation, and now it was filled with evil. It pained his heart.

You know, you are a good and beautiful creation, too. When the Lord saved you, he made you into a new creation … He gave you a new, good and beautiful self. A self that was just like God in holiness and righteousness. And so, then, if you don’t put off the old self, how terrible is that? It so pains the Holy Spirit.

Don’t do that. Don’t grieve the Lord.

OK, so, let’s get down to practical details. How are we actually going to do this?

Four things that need to be put off.

1) Put off speaking falsehoods, and speak truthfully

Another way to say this would be: Stop lying. This fallen world is full of lies. Lies are everywhere. You get bombarded with lies whenever you turn on the TV, whenever you surf the Internet. There is a flood of lies that come from advertising, from newspapers, from politicians.

Truth is found in God. The Lord cannot tell a lie.

God is “… the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16)

The Holy Spirit is “… the Spirit of truth” (1 John 4:6)

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)

Jesus said “Your word is truth” (John 17:17)

You and I, as followers of Christ, are people of the truth. Don’t lie to people. Don’t exaggerate details to make yourself look good. Don’t be selective with the facts to try and get your own way. Don’t lie to cover yourself when you make a mistake. Don’t lie when you make a promise.

2) Put off stealing, and work

There are many other ways that people steal: petty theft (umbrellas), not repaying your debts, taxes, expense accounts for work, not paying workers what you owe them, not freely giving to those in need.

Put off stealing. The Lord has freely and generously given you so much. There is no need to steal.

3) Put off unwholesome talk, and speak words to build people up

What’s ‘unwholesome talk’? Talk that attacks someone else (“He is so incompetent!” “The woman who lives next to me is an absolute pyscho!”); dirty jokes; gossip; grumbling and complaining.

None of this kind of talk helps anyone. All it does is increase negativity, increase frustration, bring people down, and it gives the devil a foothold in your life. When you speak words like this, the Devil will take your words, and he will use them to wreak havoc in your life.

Put off unwholesome talk, and use your words to build people up. Before you speak, ask yourself this question: “Is what I am about to say going to benefit the people who are listening? Are these words going to help them … encourage them … comfort them … guide them to see some truth?” And if the answer is “no”, then don’t speak.

4) Put off all malice

So, here we have it. Put off every form of malice. Let’s see how some other bibles translate that phrase, “every form of malice”.

     - all types of evil behavior (New Living Translation)

     - hateful feelings of any sort (Good News Translation)

     - all hatred (International Standard Version)

     - all wickedness (Aramaic Bible)

And so, put off bitterness, rage, anger, and basically every kind of wicked and hateful impulse that comes from within you. 

You can be sure that bitterness, rage and anger are going to grab hold of your heart sometime this week. When that happens, put it off. Get rid of it.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (Luke 6:35-36)

Be kind to wicked people. Be kind and compassionate and forgiving. Just like God is kind and compassionate and forgiving to you.