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How to Live Like a Pagan - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 4:17-19

  • 2009-04-19 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


If you are informed at all to the culture around us, you know that the Christian faith that we hold to and embrace and love is constantly under attack. It is under attack from a variety of world views. James Emery White in his book that I would commend to you, called A Mind for God, describes some of the sources from which those attacks come. Some of the attacks against our faith come from the world of academia. In religion and history courses and most of the nations leading academic institutions, students, in some cases from good churches like this one, are told that the entire historical record on which Christianity rests is in fact untrue, that Jesus never claimed to be all that most Christians say He is and have made Him out to be. They also go a step further, and in the academic world, join forces to unite in attacking biblical morality.

A study of faculty members in US Colleges and Universities found that 67% of the faculty members believe that homosexuality is every bit as morally acceptable as heterosexuality. Eighty-four support abortion not merely as an extreme measure but as ethically and morally right. Seventy-five support extramarital sexual involvement. So, certainly the attacks on our faith, both the historical nature of our faith and on its ethics come from the academic world. But the cultural attacks also come from much lower form of expression in our culture and that is the entertainment industry. James Emery White goes on to say that the best-selling novel of the 21st century to date is The DaVinci Code which teaches that Jesus was not divine, that He was sexually involved with Mary and that together they bore a child. The most influential film series of the last 25 years has been the Star Wars series with promotes eastern pantheism.

The attack comes from the world of politics. If you've read the papers, you know that Vermont has recently joined a number of other states in legalizing same sex marriages. And under the guise of "establishment clause," the courts have routinely expunged all religious expression from the public square. Our faith is under attack. Sadly, the Christian response to these attacks has often been grossly underwhelming. Bertrand Russell, the devout atheist and enemy of the Christian faith, was sadly right when he wrote this, "Most Christians would rather die than think, in fact they do."

As Christians, we have to realize that we are locked in a battle of ideas, and we desperately need to use our minds engaging in that battle. You understand that part of what it means to be made in the image of God, is the ability to think. It's not by accident that when Jesus quoted the great commandment from Deuteronomy He added the word "mind." In Matthew 22:37 He said, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." In Romans 12:2 Paul argues that true Christian renewal is a renewal of the mind. And it's this issue of how we think that Paul begins to address in the next section we come to in his letter to the church in Ephesus. I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians 4 and this letter that was written to the church in Ephesus, Ephesians 4.

Paul's point is going to be that our thinking has to change from what it used to be if we hope to have any change in our behavior. Thinking comes first, before behavior. So, our thinking must change if we're going to be different people. Now let me remind you of the context. Let's back up a moment because it's easy when you're into the details of the passage to lose sight of the bigger context. You remember that Ephesians 1 through 3 describe our position in the eternal plan of God. God had this great eternal plan, and chapters 1 through 3 tell us how we fit into that plan. Chapters 4 through 6 describe our practice then. If our position is that exalted, our practice, our living ought to measure up to that position. The second half of the book begins in 4:1 with this overarching command, "Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Walk worthy of your position.

In the previous weeks we have examined the first way Paul tells us to walk worthy. It begins in Ephesians 4:2 and runs down through verse 16. There we learn that if we're going to walk worthy of the position we have in Christ, we must walk in unity in the church. We must function in the roles God has given us so that the church works together for the glory of God.

Today we come to a new paragraph with an entirely different point. It begins in verse 17 of chapter 4 and runs through the end of the chapter. Here Paul tells us if you're going to walk worthy of your calling, worthy of your position in Christ, then you must walk in holiness. You must walk in the new life that God has given you. In chapter 2 we discovered that when we were dead, God made us alive, He gave us spiritual life and Paul now says, walk in a way that reflects that new life.

This paragraph has two basic sections we'll see as we work our way through it. The first section tells us to stop living like we used to live. Stop living like pagans, that's verses 17 through 19. The second section tells us to live like Christians. Live in keeping with our new life, and that begins in verse 20 and runs all the way down through the end of the chapter, verse 32.

Today we're going to begin to look at the first section; stop living like we used to live, stop living like pagans. Let me read to you this first section, verse 17,

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

Paul's proposition in that brief section is very clear. In fact, it's really in the form of a command, an imperative; stop living like the pagan you used to be. Stop living like the pagan you used to be.

Paul begins by explaining why we ought to embrace that command. If you need to be persuaded that this is important, look at how Paul begins verse 17, so "therefore," I insert the word "therefore" because the word "so" in Greek text is really the normal word therefore. "Therefore this I say, and affirm together with the Lord." "Therefore," that word points back up to verse 1, in light of your privileges, in light of your position, in light of all that you've learned about what God has done in your life in the first three chapters. In light of the fact that you were chosen by God in eternity past, in light of the fact that He rescued you by grace alone from your transgressions and sins, in light of the fact that He has given you new spiritual life, that He has reconciled you to Himself and to others, that you have been made a part of His family, in light of the fact that all of those things have happened, therefore, walk no longer as the Gentiles walk.

But there's another reason he gives us here not only because of our position, because of what has happened to us. There's another reason we should follow this command. He says, therefore this I say. We should follow this command because it comes from Paul, a hand-picked Apostle of Jesus Christ; the Apostle through whom Christ chose to reveal Himself to the Gentiles. This, "I say," do this because Paul said it.

But there's another reason he gives us, another motivation, as well. Notice he says, "Therefore this I say, and affirm together with the Lord." Paul here pulls out the big gun. He says we should do this because he is speaking with all the authority of Jesus Christ. "I affirm this together with Jesus Christ." Paul is essentially telling the people there in Ephesus and us here in Dallas, that if Jesus Himself were here with us today, this is one of the things He would say to us. If He were teaching us today, this is what He would say. By the way this underscores the fact that Jesus Christ our Lord is just as concerned with the details of our lives as He is with our doctrine. He's concerned about both. So, Paul gives this statement he's about to make this sort of solemn feel. Therefore, in light of your position, in light of who I am as an apostle, and in the authority of Jesus Christ, listen to me. Now look at the command, verse 17. "Therefore this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk…."

Now, does something strike you as strange about that statement? It's ironic because he tells them not to live like Gentiles, but most of the Christians to whom he writes are in fact Gentiles. Go back to 2:11. He refers to them this way, 2:11, he says, "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh," 3;1, "For this reason I, Paul the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles."

So, they were Gentiles. But he says I don't want you to live like Gentiles. In one sense they were no longer Gentiles because if you look for example at 1 Thessalonians 4:5, Gentiles are described like this, "… the Gentiles who do not know God…" the Gentiles who do not know God. Paul says don't walk like those around you who don't know God. There was a time when you were like that. There was a time when you didn't know God, when you were alienated from God as he's already taught in this letter. But in grace, God came to us and when we were dead, spiritually dead in transgressions and sins, 2:1, unable to respond to God 2:5 God made us alive, He gave us new life. And now we know God, so Paul says stop walking like you haven't come to know God.

Paul loves to use this metaphor of life as walking. Because walking is a repetitious behavior, one leg after the other again and again and again, the same motion, the same pattern. So, it speaks of a recurring pattern of living. Our walk really refers to predictable recurring patterns of behavior; our lifestyle. It also implies direction and destination. When you walk, you walk in a certain direction, and if you keep walking in that direction you eventually end up at some destination. All of us with out exception in this room this morning are on a lifelong journey somewhere. So, the metaphor of walking then is this picture of recurring patterns of behavior, habits of life, lifestyle that's moving us in a particular direction toward a particular destination. And Paul says I don't want you to walk any longer as the Gentiles walk.

Notice what he says, "that you walk no longer as the Gentiles walk." In other words, this is how we used to live; we're to stop following the patterns of thinking and behavior that we used to have before Christ, a lifestyle walking away from God and toward ultimate destruction and hell. Stop living like that. So in reality then, Paul is commanding us to stop living the way unbelievers live.

But that raises a question, what exactly about how unbelievers walk or live are we not to copy? What is it about their lifestyle that we're not to copy? And here's where some Christians get off track. Well meaning Christians who decide that they shouldn't be living like the culture around them in commands like this one, conclude that what the Bible primarily is talking about is external things; a style of clothing, a kind of music, a particular hair style. You see extreme examples of that of course on television when some cult in West Texas, you see these people dress like they're live in the 1800's or the you know the 1900's, the early 1900's. You see them, and you see here are people who think that not conforming to the culture means dressing differently. There are more subtle expressions of that that occur in all of our lives and in all of our churches.

That's not what Paul means. Well if it's not those external things, what is it about how pagans live that we should have nothing to do with? Well it's like Paul anticipates that question, because, having given the command, he then sets out to describe what it is about pagan's lives that we should have nothing to do with, that we should never copy. What's fascinating to me about the description that follows is in describing the lifestyle of pagans, Paul strips away the façade and allows us to see culture the way God sees it.

Remember the culture that Paul was speaking about here. Paul lived in the first century in a world that we learned in history class is called the Greco Roman world. Greece, with all of its philosophy, art, architecture, its sophistication, the Greece that gave us Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, architecture and art, mathematics and the sciences, Rome with all of its know how and all of its power and all of its ability to get things done, the Roman Empire that gave us the Pax Romana, a vast network of roads all over its empire, an advanced military parallel to none until modern times. And pre-modern cities, the Romans had, that had many of the things that we have from paved roads to sewage systems to three story malls and fast food restaurants. That's what we see when we study ancient Greece and Rome in school. But that's not what God saw.

The same thing happens to us I think when we look at our culture. We see the glossy cover. We see the incredible ingenuity. We see the creativity. We see the advances in every field of study. But that's not what God sees. He sees exactly the same patterns of living today that He saw in Grecian Rome in the culture of Paul's day. Whether you're talking about the first century Greco-Roman world or whether you're talking about the 21st Century modern world, from God's perspective, pagans still live the same way. This is every bit as accurate a description of today as it was of Ephesus in Paul's day.

But how is it that pagans live? How does one live like a pagan? I've entitled this message, How To Live Like a Pagan, because Paul is going to describe how pagans live under the overarching command of stop living like this. In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul identifies for us several defining characteristics of how pagans live. And we're going to look at those characteristics over the next couple of weeks.

The first characteristic of a pagan lifestyle that we come to in this text, the first common defining characteristic of a pagan lifestyle is a worthless world view; a worthless world view. Look at verse 17, "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk," [And here is the first way they walk.] "in the futility of their mind," Pagans walk in the futility of their mind.

I love expositional teaching. I love the discovery, and it's not unusual for me, as happened this week, to go in to my study thinking that I was going to land one place, and after I've done the work landing somewhere else, and this text took me a different direction than I anticipated us going. But we're going to follow the clues Paul gives us, and I think you'll see why it lands there.

What does this mean, in the futility of their mind? Well the Greek word that's translated "mind" here is a complex word that can be used a variety of ways. It can refer to the thinking process, the process of thought. But that can't be what it means here because the very next phrase in Ephesians 4:18, "being darkened in their understanding," clearly is referring to the thinking process. Instead it's best to see this as something larger, something more far reaching in its implications. I have to agree with several commentators, and it's probably put I think in the most succinct way by a commentator named Best who writes this, "The apostle is referring not to a defect in the ability of his readers to reason," he's going to do that in a moment, "but their mindset. The total person viewed under the aspect of thinking."

In other words here, Paul is using this word "mind" in the sense of one's entire mental disposition, one's frame of mind, one's way of thinking, one's frame of reference, one's mindset. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it like this, "The Gentiles' entire outlook upon life, their whole reaction to it and their way of living their lives." In other words, essentially when he talks about the mind here, he's talking about mindset, he's talking about philosophy, he's talking about the way we use the word "world view," world view. James Sire defines "world view" as this, "A set of presuppositions (that is, assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) a set of presuppositions which we hold, consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently about the make-up of our world." Let me pull out his parenthesis and you get, a world view is a set of presuppositions which we hold about the make up of our world. It is the universe of ideas in which each of us live and think.

Everybody here, every person in the world has a world view. It is simply the lens through which you see the world. It is the grid through which you interpret everything you see. If I could use the illustration, it's like the glasses of the soul through which you see the world around you. And it comes into focus through those glasses, and if those glasses have a certain tint, everything in the world looks that tint, that color. That's your world view, and Paul says that all of the world views, all of the mindsets, all of the ways of thinking, all of the grids through which unbelievers see the world, look at the world, are without exception futile. They walk in the futility of their mindset, their world view, their frame of reference. It is futile. That is, it lacks both meaning and purpose. It misses the goal. Their world view, their mindset either has no purpose, or they can't reach the purpose for which it exists.

Another word for one's world view is one's philosophy. From God's perspective, as revealed in the Bible, there's only one correct world view or philosophy. We would call it Christian Theism, Christian Theism. That's it. But our world is filled, our lives are filled with people who reject that world view at some level. They have come to hold some substitute reality for what God knows to be reality. In fact, turn to Romans 1, Paul describes this a little more in Romans 1. You remember the context here as Paul is going to ultimately explain the gospel; he begins by explaining the bad news, why we need the gospel, and he starts out by indicting every human being. In Romans 1:18, he says God is angry, and God is angry because men, all men, suppress, that is hold down, the truth. Every person without exception is born as somebody who wants to suppress the truth. The question is what truth?

Well Paul goes on to explain in verse's 19 and 20 that it's the truth that God has revealed or manifested about Himself in the world He's made. God has put clues and hints of Himself everywhere we look, and it's clear, and God has made it clear, Paul says, but people don't want to hear that, and so they suppress that truth. How do they react instead? Verse 21, "For even though they knew God," That is even though they saw in God's general revelation, in His world, these things about Himself, they understood God's divine nature, His eternal power, even though they knew God in that way, they wanted to suppress that. And "… they did not honor Him as God" [Literally they did not glorify Him as God.] "… [nor] give thanks."

By the way, those are the two greatest indictments on humanity. God made Himself clear, He put Himself on display and without exception every human being refuses to glorify God as God; instead, he wants to be his own god and determine what he will or will not do, and refuses to have a heart of gratitude for all that he receives from God's hand. The One who keeps his heart beating moment by moment, the One who feeds him, the One who provides. That's the greatest indictment on humanity. So, they refuse to do that, and instead watch this, verse 21, "they became futile …" Same word, a different form, as in Ephesians 4:17, "empty, aimless in their speculations." The word "speculations" is a word for internal dialogue, internal discussion about important issues. This is a person deciding their world view, their philosophy. "and their foolish heart was darkened."

Watch what happens verse 22, "Professing themselves to be wise." The Greek word is "sophis." The word from which we get English words like sophisticated, philosophy, philosopher, philosophical. All those words come from that word wise. They profess themselves to be wise, to be sophisticated, to be philosophers, to have a philosophy, but instead they became fools. The Greek word is "moros" from which we get the word moronic. They became morons.

Lloyd-Jones puts it like this,

Instead of accepting revelation, they became philosophers. And what is a philosopher? A man who claims that he starts by being skeptical about everything that he is an agnostic. I'm going to have the data he says, and then I'm going to apply my mind to it. I'm going to reason it out, and I'm going to work it out, and that is exactly what such men have done. They became foolish and wicked in their reasoning in their thoughts in their conjectures and speculations.

It's like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:20, "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise that they are futile." They're empty, they're aimless they go nowhere, and people everywhere, what you have to realize is that people everywhere are driven by these world views. Paul says that all of these world views are futile.

Do you understand that Paul isn't just talking about Ephesus two thousand years ago? Paul is describing today. He's describing London and Paris and New York and Los Angeles and Dallas. People everywhere are driven by these sort of worthless world views. Now when you think about these speculations, these empty speculations, these world views that are worthless, understand that there are only a limited number of philosophies or world views from which to choose. If you've studied philosophy at all, you understand that. If you studied it in school, you know that it's not like there're this endless number of philosophies or world views to choose from. There's only a limited number, in fact depending on how you group them there're only somewhere between seven and eleven possible world views.

In his excellent book, that I would highly recommend to you if you're interested in pursuing this anymore, James Sire explains each of these world views. The book is entitled The Universe Next Door. The idea is the person sitting next to you, or living next to you, or working next to you may be living in a different universe, a different world view. Sire says that by asking a series of seven basic questions you can identify the various world views. Here are the questions he proposes.

Number one, what is the nature of ultimate reality? Is it God as described in the Bible? Is it gods, plural? Is it a force? Is it matter? What is the nature of ultimate reality?

Number two, what is the nature of the universe?

Number three, what is the nature of humanity?

Number four, what happens to a person at death?

Number five, on what basis can we know anything?

And number six, how do we determine ethical behavior?

And number seven, what is the meaning of history?

He said if you ask those seven questions you will eventually distinguish eight world views eight distinct world views. Let me give you the list that he works through and explains. Here are the eight dominant world views in our world today and in the world in the past.

Number one, Christian theism – that's where we are.

Number two, deism.

Number three, naturalism.

Number four, nihilism.

Number five, existentialism.

Number six, eastern pantheistic monism.

Number seven, new age thought.

And number eight, post-modernism.

Understand those are the choices. That is the buffet line of world views from which people can choose.

Paul's point is this: before we came to Christ, we were heavily influenced by the thinking of the culture around us. In fact, you remember in Ephesians 2, look at Ephesians 2 a moment. We went through this in detail, but Paul says "you were dead," verse 1 "in your trespasses and sins," and then he says "you walked in those sins," and you walked according to or in step with or in conformity to. Paul's point is: our sinful lifestyle was in complete conformity, was in perfect step with powerful forces that deeply influenced our lifestyle and thinking. What were those forces?

Well there were three of them there in verse 2, but let me just remind you of the first one. You formally walked according to, or in lockstep with the course of this world, that is the spirit of the age, the current prevailing mindset and values of the world. We were in step with the thinking of our times. Now Paul tells us that's no longer true. We must not walk in step with those ideas anymore. That means we need to take this seriously folks.

Let me ask you a question. Of the eight world views I just listed, which of those is the prevailing pagan mindset in our culture? If you had to look at that list, or if I were to read that list again, which of those do you think is the most prevailing mindset of our culture? What is the leading worthless world view in our time in America? Most scholars, and those who study these things, would say unequivocally without question it is naturalism, naturalism. That is the ocean in which you swim. That is the ocean of thought in which we move every day.

What is naturalism? Well let me give you a very brief definition. Naturalism says that everything that exists or happens can be explained solely by natural causes and laws. Everything that exists or happens can be explained solely by natural causes or laws. Sire in his explanation of naturalism in the book The Universe Next Door, reduces naturalism to these defining propositions. See if you recognize any of these permeating our culture. He says naturalism teaches these things.

Number one, matter is all that exists, matter is all that exists, and it has existed eternally. Matter is all that exists, and it has existed eternally. It's like Carl Sagan, you remember the leading voice for naturalism until his death, he began each episode of his television series Cosmos with the words, "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." That's naturalism.

Number two, the cosmos, naturalism teaches, is a closed system, that is there is nothing that comes in from the outside. In other words, interpreted: there is nothing supernatural. There is nothing miraculous. There is no supernatural. Everything is natural.

Number three, human beings are complex machines. Personality is simply an interrelation of chemical and physical properties we do not yet fully understand. In other words, man can be fully explained as a collection of chemicals and chemical and physical processes. There is nothing beyond that. He is merely a complex machine. He is the most complex of a series of other machines that we call animals.

Number four, death is the extinction of personality and individuality. When you're dead, you're done, it's over, you go in the grave and nothing happens after that.

Number five, life and history are random without any overarching purpose.

Number six, morality, then, is determined solely by the individual and his circumstances.

Now if we were to take that list, and that describes naturalism. (That's the ocean in which we swim folks, every day.) If we were to take that list, and reduce it to the real practical ramifications, we might end up with a list like John MacArthur's list of five lies our contemporaries believe. MacArthur says this is what people live and teach.

Life is random, number one.

Number two, truth is relative.

Number three, people are basically good.

Number four, you can be whatever you want to be.

And number five the goal of life is self-fulfillment.

That is the mindset of our times. That is the world view that dominates and rules our culture and Paul says it is worthless, it is purposeless, it is futile, it leads nowhere. And the same is true for all of the other great world views and philosophies.

The first and great characteristic of a pagan is a worthless world view. And we'll look at the other characteristics next week, but I want to finish our time together today by asking the questions so what are the lessons for us? What are the lessons for us from what Paul commands us here? Paul says stop thinking like pagans. Don't live under the same futile mindsets and world views of the people around you. So, what are the lessons from that command for us?

Number one, be reminded of the incredible power of God in the new birth, be reminded of the incredible power of God in the new birth. Because He says, no longer walk. There was a time when we did walk, remember 2:2, we were in slavery, in lockstep with the spirit of the age and there was nothing we could do to break out of the spirit of our age. We were controlled and dominated by it as well as our sins. Chapter 2:5 God gave us life, He made us alive, the old person we used to be died, and we're now a new person in Christ, all things have become new, and therefore we get to Ephesians 4, he says you can stop doing that, you don't have to be in slavery to that world view anymore. In fact, he's going to say, I want you to be renewed in your thinking. I want you to begin thinking like the new person you are.

Let this remind you of the power of God in your life. You used to be controlled and dominated by the thinking of the culture, by the thinking of the world views around you. But you don't have to be anymore. God has given you new life. He's given you His truth to understand, and you can understand it, and it can make a difference in your life. You are no longer enslaved; you are now a new person, no longer enslaved to those old ideas.

Number two, the second lesson, understand the connection between mindset or world view and behavior; understand the connection between mindset or world view and behavior. Paul doesn't start, did you notice this? He didn't start with the behavior of pagans. That's where we would have started. How they live. What they do. If I said describe a pagan, what would you say? You would start with their behavior. That isn't where Paul begins. He starts with their world views, their philosophies, their thinking because as a man thinks so is he. Our problems go back to our mind. That's why Christ said, you remember, "Man's problems aren't his behavior." Those things all flow out of what? The inside. They're an expression of how he thinks and what he is inside. There is an unbreakable link between your real world view, and your choices and your lifestyle. That's why we don't want to try to make unbelievers behave differently. That doesn't fix the problem, the problem is inside.

This also means that how you think as a Christian, your overarching mindset, your world view, it drives and predicts your future behavior. Your thoughts, the world view you have the glasses through which you see the world will determine how you will behave in the future. Moreover, it also means that I can look today at your behavior at your lifestyle, the choices you make, and I can understand your world view. Because you are living out that view of the world.

Number three, third lesson, and this is sort of the heart of where Paul is going. Don't let yourself be influenced by those old-world views, don't let yourself be influenced by those old-world views. Don't buy into the futile philosophy or the mindset of the culture of pagans. You say how does that happen? In our world today, how can I be influenced by the world view of the culture? Let me give you some of the chief ways that I think Christians can be influenced by the culture around them.

Let me just run through a little list.

Number one, mixing the naturalistic version of origins, the origin of the universe with the Bible and coming up with some form of theistic evolution. You don't get to theistic evolution by reading the Bible. You have to mix in some of the world view of the culture to get there. Don't let that happen.

Number two, another way that I think Christians can be influenced by the culture around them, they can down play God's involvement in the natural world. They can talk about creation as nature or mother earth instead the created world of God.

Number three, another way Christians can be influenced by the culture around them, by being carried away by the latest fad philosophy.

Let me ask you today, you pick up your newspaper, you pick up a magazine, you watch TV. What is the most dominant fad philosophy of our times? It's environmentalism. It's environmental, it's everywhere being green. Everywhere you turn, now folks don't misunderstand me, we were given the responsibility to be wise stewards of the earth. We should not rape this earth. We should not abuse it. We should not trash the planet. Just as we shouldn't do those things in our own yards, in our own homes, we shouldn't do it to the planet as a whole.

But understand that this world was made by God for man to use. And God is the One so far who has done the most damage to it. Okay? God cursed it. God is the One who flooded the entire world with water. And He will one day, according to the Scriptures, renew this whole world, and we will live on this renewed planet for a thousand years, and then and only then He Himself will destroy it with fire. And then He'll make a new one. It's what the Scriptures teach. A new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness is at home. This is a disposable planet. We will not destroy this planet. God will, in His time. And we cannot save it from that ultimate destruction. Instead of getting caught up in the latest sort of popular fad philosophy, let your mind be renewed and directed by the Scriptures. What does the Bible say God is going to do? Does God allow for us to destroy the world? No, that's not the plan. It's not going to happen.

Another way we can be influenced by the thinking around us is thinking that man is merely a higher level animal, thinking that man is merely a higher level animal. The radical form of this comes from somebody like Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's founder who said this, "There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." She's talking from her mindset. She's talking from her world view of naturalism. But, the more subtle form of that, none of us as Christians would say that I hope. The more subtle form of this influence is to be more concerned about your pet than the people in your life. And, unfortunately, there are Christians that are like that. Listen, of all the creatures on earth, man alone occupies the special place of honor. Why? Because God says unlike all the other creatures on earth, he was made in what? The image of God and nothing else was.

Another influence of the culture is concluding that the circumstances of your life are random. They occur by chance by accident. Listen, life on this planet is not random. Instead, the Bible says that your circumstances are measured out by the hand of a good all-wise, sovereign God. That there isn't one thing that happens in your life outside of His control, and He is working everything (God has designed all of human history) to one great end His own glory.

Christians can be influenced by the mindset of the culture by treating morality as some kind of group construct. We all get to vote. Let's take a survey, ethics by democracy. If more people, if the majority think its okay, it's okay. Where is that written? Listen, whatever consenting adults decide to do is not therefore morally acceptable. Homosexuality is not okay if it's monogamous. Abortion is not a woman's right. Dressing immodestly is not okay just because it's fashionable. Lying isn't okay in business because everybody else does it. Simply because pornography has gained a wider acceptance in our world today, doesn't mean that it is any less morally reprehensible than it was in the New Testament era or any time in history. Morality is not a moving standard. Morality is based on the law of God which is built on the bedrock of the person and character of God, and it doesn't change.

You can't be influenced by the culture by treating truth as relative, as if there were no absolutes, refusing to be dogmatic. There's a new push in Christian circles today called the hermeneutics of humility. Well, who am I to say what the Bible really means, so what you say may be right, what I say may be right, we'll just get along. Listen, there are certainly issues on which the Bible isn't clear, and we ought to exercise grace toward those who disagree with us. But folks, there are some things that for two thousand years the church of Jesus Christ has said, "This is what the Bible teaches." We don't need to be humble about that. It's the truth of God, and it's okay to be dogmatic when the Scripture is dogmatic. Truth is not relative, it's absolute. It is the same in every time and in every place and in every culture because it is built on the unchanging eternal character of an unchanging God.

You can be influenced by the culture by assuming that people are basically good. The Bible teaches that people are basically bad, in fact totally depraved. That is permeated in every part by sin and fallenness. Nothing untouched, everything tainted in every human being, and without divine intervention, and without divine rescue we will only get worse. That's what the Bible teaches.

You can be influenced by the culture by living as if the goal of life, the goal of your life, is self-fulfillment. That's what the culture says. This is all there is. You're going to die, it's done. So, live to fulfill yourself now. What will you enjoy? Do that. Listen, that isn't what the Bible says. The Bible says live in conformity with the Word and law of God, pleasing the One who redeemed us to His glory. We were made to bring glory to God. That's why you're here. That's why you exist. It's not for your own self-fulfillment. Folks, Paul says, don't be influenced by the world views around you. Those are just a few of the ways.

Very briefly our fourth lesson, fourth and final lesson. Just to review, in case you've lost your way.

Number one was be reminded of the power of God in regeneration.

Number two, understand the connection between mindset and behavior.

Number three, stop letting yourself be influenced by the world views around you.

And number four, identify and wage war against these world views.

Here is what you attack. Let me show you this. Turn to one last passage, 2 Corinthians 10, 2 Corinthians 10:3. Paul says,

… we walk in the flesh, [but we don't war,] we don't make war according to the flesh,

our weapons are not human weapons, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful [And what are we fighting?] for the destruction of fortresses.

Greek cities, almost every Greek city like Corinth had an acropolis. It was a high fortified place near the city that you could retreat to when you were attacked. What are the fortresses of the people around us that we ought to be destroying or attacking? Verse 5, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

The word "speculations" here, the Greek word is a general word that refers to all human thoughts, opinions, reasonings, philosophies, theories, psychologies, perspectives, and religions. They're ideology, that's what the fortresses are. People around us are locked up, are in prison, are taking refuge in speculations, false ideologies that enslave them. And we are to destroy those. We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. How do we do that? What are the weapons we use to destroy the fortresses of human opinion and philosophy? What's the only thing that opposes unbiblical thought and ideologies? It's the truth, it's the truth. That's our only weapon. That's why when we get to Ephesians 6 what does Paul say? What's the one offensive weapon we use? The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

Folks, we live in a world of people that are locked in fortresses of ideologies, and it's our job to take the truth of God's Word, and help destroy by the power of the Spirit of God, destroy those fortrfr5sses in which they're enslaved, so that, they can be set free and brought in obedience to Christ, not to buy into those world views. Stop walking like the pagans walk in the futility of their minds, in the emptiness of their world views. Instead, as Paul says elsewhere, put on the mind of Christ.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we could never adequately thank You for the grace You've shown us. Because we once were in slavery to our sin, we were once enslaved to the spirit of the age, to the thinking, to the mindset of the world around us. But we thank You, O God, that by the power of Your Spirit, You not only brought the truth into our lives, but You opened up our minds to understand it. You said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

Father we thank You, and praise You for Your incredible grace in our lives.

Father don't let us be influenced by the culture around us. Help us to recognize it, to see its inroads, to fight it and not only to defend ourselves against that thinking, but Father may we take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and may we assault those world views, graciously and gently but firmly when we see others enslaved in those world views.

Father, thank You for Your truth. Without it we would be standing alone with no idea of who You or what You expect of us. We thank you, O God, that You have given us in Your Word everything that we need that pertains to life and godliness. Help us to live it out we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.