I have fond memories of this time of year – the second week of August, the middle of August or so.


Growing up, it was always right about now when my mom would set aside two evenings – one for me, one for my sister, and we would go out and do some back to school clothes shopping. We always went to Kohls. I got to pick out a handful of fresh new shirts for the school year, a pair or two of jeans, maybe some new shorts, and definitely a crisp new pair of shoes. During my teenage years I never really enjoyed this evening – a night away from video games or playing outside and going clothes shopping. But in retrospect I need to be honest, it always felt nice on that first day of school to have some stylish new clothes and shoes to wear, to have a fresh start to a new school year.


Whether or not you can relate to my “back to school shopping” experience I just shared with you, I’m confident that you can relate to me on this: new is nice. Wouldn’t you agree with that? That feeling when you put a brand new pair of socks on, right out of the package. That “new book” smell. Finally upgrading to your new phone or new computer after dealing with the painfully slow old model you had been using. Getting that brand new set of pots and pans, golf clubs, tools that you spent months or years saving up for.  No one on The Price Is Right jumps in the air hysterically at the prospect of winning a used car! Right?! I mean, look, the whole “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is a good life philosophy, but let’s be honest – it’s nice when we get the opportunity to acquire some new items from time to time, new upgrades to our existing things.


New is nice. That’s the way we often feel about the clothes we wear, technology we use, cars we drive, and so on. Well, that’s the same way we want to feel about the church, too. As we continue our journey through Ephesians this morning, we’re continuing to look at what kind of church we want to be. We want to be a new church. Now lets be clear – when we say a “new” church, I’m not referring to the building. And although it’s always nice to have new people joining the church, that’s not what our focus is today either. And when I say “we want to be a new church”, I’m also not suggesting that we completely overhaul our operation and worship services and go in a radically different, new direction. When we talk this morning about wanting to be a new church, we’re talking about ourselves. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. We want God to transform us and to make us new people. We want to be a new church today and always. Paul summarizes it so well at the end of our section for today: 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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.


But when Paul got into this topic with the Ephesians, he spoke with quite a sense of urgency. He didn’t just say to the Ephesians “Hey, here’s the way we want to conduct ourselves.” Listen to what Paul says in the first verse from our section: 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. Insist. Must. Strong words he uses here. Because this is a huge deal! A life in Jesus means a new way of living: new conduct, new thoughts, new words, new actions. A life in Jesus means a life of purity, not impurity. As Paul speaks the will of God to our ears this morning – becoming new people isn’t merely a wish of ours. It’s not optional. It’s essential.


And the way that Paul chooses to illustrate this truth to this group of Christians is by basically saying: “Don’t be like the Gentiles.” Don’t be like them. As your eyes glance over this chunk from chapter 4, Paul has some very derogatory things to say about “the rest of the world”, if you will. Darkened. Separated from life in God. Ignorant. Hardened hearts. No sensitivity. Indulge impurity. Continual lust. Back then, Paul used the term “Gentiles”. Today, we would call them unbelievers. The term “Gentiles” in the Bible means anyone who wasn’t a Jew. God had his special group of set-apart people (Jews/Israel). And then there was everyone else. God’s people Israel were given the 10 Commandments, the Law of God, appearances from the prophets. But the rest, the Gentiles, perpetually walked in darkness. Since every inclination of their hearts were only evil all the time, they lived their lives according to the highlighted things I just mentioned. I’m not condoning their conduct, but can you blame them for living this way? They did not know the Lord, so they didn’t walk in the way of the Lord.


Well, that all changed in the New Testament. Jesus gave his disciples the task to go and make disciples of all nations and so now Gentile peoples are coming to hear the good news of grace. You might remember last week we were talking about Christian unity and how this Ephesian church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. This is a beautiful thing! Unbelievers (Gentiles) were coming to take refuge and have faith in the God who Saves! And now as Paul speaks to his blended church right here – he’s giving them a reminder that all of you now have a new identity now, in Jesus. So don’t live and behave like those who walk in darkness. And if you came from that way of life, remember, you’re new now. Leave this behind.


There are some churches that spend their hour together on Sunday mornings raining fire and brimstone down on the world around us, condemning the evils of the present age. I guess what we could do here at Messiah is just take our 20 minutes and talk about how evil and corrupt the world is when we come here on Sunday mornings. But I like the way that Paul handles the matter here. He mentions the outsiders and the way they live, but then he moves on and he speaks to the audience of believers in front of him. Instead of continuing to harp on the outsiders, the unbelievers – he says this. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self. In short, Paul says – You know better. You know the truth. You know what is right. Yes, we can agree that you and I see deplorable things every day in our world. Shootings. Violence. Rage. Senseless crime. Society stooping to new lows. It breaks my heart to see such a fallen world as I’m sure it breaks your heart, and God’s as well. But I’ve heard before that if you want to change the world, it starts at home and that’s what we’re addressing here this morning. Instead of us pointing our fingers at the Gentiles of our day, complaining about how wretched they are and “thank God WE’RE not like them” – we humbly come here and beat our breast and say ‘God have mercy on us, sinners!”


This lesson is a much needed splash of cold water to our faces. If we’re being honest, the reason we come here on Sundays isn’t to have a good cup of coffee and enjoy a weekly chat with the gang – the reason we come here on Sundays is because we want to, we need to, become new people. The reason we read our Scriptures at home during the week isn’t just to complete my “Through the Bible in 3 Years” checklist. The reason we dive into the word consistently is because we want to, we need to, become new people. We need to hear the urgent reminder that Paul gives in this section: I insist that you must no longer live the old way. You know better. We like new things in our regular life. New toys, new clothes, new stuff. But in spiritual terms, our hearts are set on our same old way of sin. God tells us to leave sin behind but then time and time again we return right back to our favorite ones. We commit the same sins over and over again. Like a dog returns back to its vomit, a fool returns to his folly. Paul is serious on this – if our mouths spew the same vicious words, impurity and lies that you’re accustomed to out there, then something’s wrong. If the way you live (your actions) is a carbon copy of that list from earlier, the only difference is that you come to church on Sundays, then something’s wrong. Like we said earlier. We want to be a new church. But even more, it’s not optional. It’s essential.


In one of his other letters, 1 Corinthians, we can see why Paul takes this topic of being made new so seriously. Being stuck in our same old sin-filled ways has consequences. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. This list isn’t exhaustive but I think you get the point – in spiritual terms, staying in your same old ways has eternal implications. And if Paul stopped right here, this sentence would make all humanity cower in fear. But there’s more. Right after this, so beautiful: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


Maybe you saw there’s a grey car at the edge of the parking lot – Melissa and I are trying to sell one of our cars. And if you’ve ever sold a car before you know that you might put some work into it before selling it – some repairs, a good detailing. But no matter what you do, it’ll always be a used car. The best you can do is “like new” condition. No matter how much we “clean up or act” or rid ourselves of our sinful habits…it’s like the car…we can’t become perfect and spotless, brand new on our own. But we have a Savior who can restore us. And not only can he restore us to fully brand new, but he already did. Washed, sanctified, justified. All the spiritual dents and blemishes and stains that your heart and soul bear, Jesus fixed it all when he died on the cross. Sanctified – the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in us for the rest of our years here to turn our hearts away from our sins and towards the will and way of our God. And justified. On that day when we stand before the throne of God – God will declare us justified, just-as-if-we-never-sinned, perfect, worthy to enter the new heavens and new earth prepared by God for his faithful people. Your identity is not found in our sins. Your identity is already secure in Jesus. The joy we get to hear every Sunday is that we are new people, all glory to Christ.


If you drive down Martin Way here in Olympia, there’s a big church called Capitol Christian Center. I’ve never been inside there, but I notice something everytime I drive past: In big bold letters on the outside of their building, it says “Come As You Are”. That’s such a beautiful reminder for any church, right? No matter who you are or where you’ve been, Christ is for you. That’s what we want our church to be about, too. Come tired, worn-out and filthy – but leave polished, renewed and set free from sin. Lay your old sins and ways at the foot of the cross. Leave here a changed person. Go and walk as a child of the light. For if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! Amen.