How to Live Like a Pagan - Part 3

Ephesians 4:17-19

Tom Pennington  •  May 3, 2009
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About ten years ago, when I was still in southern California, I took a series of courses in oil painting. And I still, from time to time, would like to dabble in it, although there hasn't been much time in recent years. But these series of courses that I took were modeled on the methods and approaches of the great Renaissance masters. To most of those great painters of the Renaissance, to be well-done, art had to be partially science. It wasn't just a matter of self-expression. It was a matter of capturing the reality of God's created world, and they didn't think they were ready to capture the human figure on canvas until they had studied its anatomy.

So, they would, on occasion, do what was forbidden then as it is now. They would dig up fresh graves, these artists would, and they would steal the cadavers, and they would carefully dissect those bodies so that they could understand what was under the skin and how the muscles worked, so that they could understand the function of the body first. Now let me first of all put your mind at ease and say that wasn't part of my own art education. But history tells us that these men felt it was so important that they understand this, and only then that were they ready to paint, that a couple of the famous masters were actually arrested for grave robbing.

In a very real sense what Paul does in Ephesians 4 is dissect the human condition so that we can see it and understand it; not the human anatomy, not the anatomy of the body but the anatomy of the unregenerate soul. He, in essence, performs an autopsy on the soul of those who don't know God. He does it to help us understand the course that sin and spiritual death take in the human mind and heart. We're studying the second half of Ephesians 4; the paragraph begins in verse 17 of Ephesians 4 and runs all the way down through the end of the chapter. In this passage, Paul tells us that if we're going to walk worthy of our calling, which he's called us to do in the first verse of this chapter, then we must walk in step with the new life that we have in Christ and not in step with our old unregenerate lives.

This passage consists of two distinct sections. Verses 17 through 19 Paul tells us stop walking like a pagan, like the pagan you used to be. And beginning in verse 20 down through the end of the chapter he says start walking like a Christian, and he tells us how, and he gives us examples. We'll look at it in detail. But, right now, we find ourselves in the first section. Stop walking like you used to walk. Stop living like you used to live. Let me read it for you again. Chapter 4 beginning in 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.

In those three verses Paul tells us, stop living like the pagan you used to be. And he gives us several defining characteristics of exactly how it is that pagans live, how we used to live, so that we can understand it and stop living like that. So, we we're looking at these defining characteristics of unbelievers. The first one we discovered was a worthless world view. Through the end of verse 17, we used to walk, and they now walk, in the futility of their mind or mindset. They have a world view that's skewed, a perspective of the world, a grid through which they see reality that is flawed.

Last week we looked at the second defining characteristic of how pagans live in this sort of divine autopsy of the unregenerate soul. They have a darkened mind. Verse 18 begins, "being darkened in their understanding." The mind itself, the thinking process, and all the thoughts that come out of that thinking process are completely devoid of light. They have no spiritual light. There's this mental blackness, this mental darkness it's not occasional it's not intermittent instead it is a constant state; a constant inability to think and reason rationally from God's perspective. It's as if unbelievers have a kind of advanced spiritual Alzheimer's or dementia. They've lost all touch with spiritual reality and their thinking about all spiritual matters has been terribly skewed. They have a darkened mind.

Today we come to the third characteristic of unbelievers. They have, Paul tells us, "a lifeless soul," a lifeless soul. Look at the second expression in verse 18, he says, "they are excluded from the life of God." What does it mean to be excluded? Well if you look at the way this Greek word is used in the Septuagint, and from time to time I talk about the Septuagint, and I don't want to assume that everyone here knows what that is, some of you are new in our church. Before the time of Christ a group of scholars translated the Hebrew Bible. It was written in Hebrew originally, and writ and copied by the scribes, they translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. That was as much as maybe two hundred, between a hundred and two hundred years before Christ. It was the Bible of the New Testament era, and we can learn a lot about the Greek words in the New Testament which was written in Greek originally from how the Greek is used in that Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. That's called the Septuagint.

So, in the Septuagint when you look at this word "excluded," it's used in Psalm 58:3 this way, "the wicked are estranged" there's our word. The wicked are estranged from the womb. Or Psalm 69:8, "I have become estranged from my brothers An alien to my mother's sons." So, disconnected from someone else from a group to which I should belong, an alien an outsider. In the New Testament the word is used only two other times. It's used here in Ephesians 2:12 where were where we read that we were excluded from the Old Testament people of God from the commonwealth of Israel excluded. And then look over in Colossians 1 the parallel passage is the only other place this word is used. Colossians 1:21, Paul says, "although you were formerly" this is our lives before Christ, "alienated" there's our word. "You were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds."

The word excluded means to be estranged or alienated. Josephus, the Jewish historian, uses this word to describe wives being estranged from their husbands. So, it means here, unbelievers are in a continual state of being alienated from, strangers to, what, the life of God. This describes the life that God has in Himself and that He gives to His children. One Greek lexicon defines it like this, it is the supernatural life that belongs to God which believers will receive in the future, but which they also enjoy here and now. It is the life that only God can give. Literally the text in Ephesians 4:18 says, "having been excluded" having been alienated from the life of God. That speaks of a past event with continuing results. It's a reference to what, the fall. Because Adam and Eve fellowshipped with God, they knew God they experienced the life of God. But when they sinned that was cut off.

With human sin came death, immediate spiritual death. Do you understand that the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed and rebelled against God, the life of God, the very life of God which pulsed in them died? There was immediate spiritual disconnect from God. That's why they had walked with Him in the garden and what did they immediately do? They hid themselves. Their spiritual life was dead, and eventually, of course, physical death came as well.

So, all unbelievers without a single exception have a soul, but they have a soul in which there is no spiritual life. They're physically alive, their hearts beat and their brains function, they have families, and jobs and careers and even religions. They sleep, and they eat, and they play, but without Christ they are the walking dead. John Calvin puts it like this, "As spiritual death is nothing else than the alienation of the soul from God, we are all born as dead men." [That's an interesting expression.] "Born as dead men, and we live as dead men until we are made partakers of the life of Christ." Martyn Lloyd-Jones says what you and I call life is not life, its mere existence. Man in sin does not live, he exists. He is living like an animal. He has become cut off from the life of God which is the source of his being and of life itself.

And man knows this, because of the residual image of God, he has this vague sense that something isn't right. There must be more to life than what I'm experiencing. And so, he tries to fill that void, he tries to fill that vacuum and that hole with something else. Maybe it's a religion of his own making. Maybe he makes his own gods. Maybe he fills that void with pleasure, with alcohol or drugs or sex or some other intoxicant that will keep him from thinking about the reality of the hole in his soul. As Augustine said, "You made us for Yourself" talking to God in his confessions, "You made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You."

Listen, your soul will never know rest until it is in God. Because you were made for Him, and you can try to find that sense of joy and completion and satisfaction somewhere else, but you will never find it. And the reason is unbelievers are dead with reference to God, and they cannot act contrary to that dead nature. They cannot enter God's kingdom. They cannot understand the truth. They cannot embrace the truth. They cannot obey God. They cannot please God. They cannot even come to Christ for salvation. They are dead, unable to respond. That's why, as we saw in Ephesians 2, God has to do something. You remember, "we were dead in trespasses and sins" verse 5 of Ephesians 2, "but God made us alive." Unable to respond, that's why, by the way, the gospel offers what, eternal life; because we're dead, and we need life.

You understand that when we talk about eternal life, we're not just talking about God giving us more of the same kind of life we have now and just making it longer. That's not what we're talking about. Every human being will live forever. That's not the promise of the gospel, just the fact that we're going to live forever. Those who rebel against God will live forever in punishment. We're talking about eternal life is a different kind of life, a totally different kind of life than what we enjoyed before. At the very essence of the gospel is this eternal life.

You remember Jesus defined eternal life in His High Priestly prayer in John 17. On the night before His crucifixion He's praying, and He prays this, He says, I came to make sure that My own had eternal life and this is eternal life, He says in verse 3. He's going to define it for us. This is eternal life. "That they may know You the only true God and Me Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." You see the kind of life He was giving us is spiritual life where we're no longer dead with reference to God, now we can know God. And at the very moment of salvation we came to have that new kind of life. That's what Paul says back in chapter 2. "We were dead in trespasses and sins, but God made us alive." He gave us life. It's something we enjoy now, a different kind of life. Life with reference to God.

Turn over to John 5; listen to the words of Christ Himself. John 5:24, He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you," [That's Jesus' way of saying this is absolutely certain, this is bedrock truth.] "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me," [Exercises faith] "has eternal life." [Notice "has," currently. Believe My word you have eternal life.] "and [he] does not come into judgment, but he has passed out of death into life."

It is a current reality. If you're in Christ, if you have repented of your sins, and you have believed in Jesus Christ at the moment you exercised that faith at the very moment you turn from your sin God took your dead soul and breathed life into it. In fact, that's why you responded. Because out of that life He gave you then faith and repentance as a gift, and you were able to respond to God.

This divine life it's only found in Jesus Christ. In fact, look at chapter 5 of John down in verse 39. He says,

"You search the Scriptures" [He's talking to the Pharisees and the Jewish people here,] "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have" [This kind of life from God]"eternal life; … [but the Scriptures] testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life."

Listen, you want spiritual life, you want that vacuum in your soul that was made for God to be filled with God Himself? The only way you can ever have that is through Jesus Christ. "Come to Me," Jesus says. And I'll give you that kind of life; I'll give you a different kind of life. Paul wants us to know that unbelievers are alienated from, they are strangers to, they are hostile toward the life of God.

What results from being alienated from God? Well just trace your step back up the phrases we've already looked at, a darkened mind. If you're alienated from a life with God, you can't think straight because God is the author of rationality, and that leads to worthless world views. Skewed perspective about the world around you. And in the end this spiritual alienation from the life of God makes even the most unthinkable sins possible. Think about the Adolph Hitler's and the Ted Bundy's and the John Gacy's of the world, mass genocide, sexual perversions of every kind. Those are all possible only where there is an utter disconnect from the life of God.

Here's what Paul wants you to know. Every person you know who doesn't know God, whether it's whether it's a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, a spouse, a child, every person you know who doesn't know God is utterly dead spiritually. They couldn't respond to God if they wanted to, and they don't want to. God has to step in and intervene. Paul says don't live like those who are strangers to the life of God who are alienated from the life of God. How do we do that? How can we live like those who are spiritually dead? Well it's interesting because we're going to see that in the coming weeks because in a sense the rest of Ephesians 4 Paul explains how to stop living in spiritual death.

I'm not going to spend the time to go to walk you through that today, but let me just give you the introduction to it. Go back to chapter 4 of Ephesians. After he explains how unbelievers live, verse 20, he says, "you didn't learn Christ like that. If you've heard Him you've been taught in Him." Here's what you learned, verse 22,

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the [deceitful] lusts…. … [You'd] be renewed in [your thinking, the grid through which you see the world,] the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, [and the behavior that's appropriate to the new self in] which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

And he goes on to explain how. Basically, Paul says this, listen stop living in the clothes that you wore when you were dead. Put on clothes that match the new person you are. He's talking about behavior, attitudes, ways of thinking, ways of interacting with others. And he's going to explain what that looks like in the passage as we go through it in the weeks ahead.

So, understand this folks, all unbelievers are characterized by a lifeless soul, absolutely dead to God. How did that happen? Well Paul explains how it happens in the next phrase as he continues this sort of autopsy of the unregenerate human mind. Notice how he begins the next phrase in verse 18. "Because," this brings us then to the fourth defining characteristic of a pagan, and it is a willful ignorance, a willful ignorance. Look at verse 18, "… because of the ignorance that is in them.…" Paul says that unbelievers are strangers to the life that comes from God because of their ignorance.

Now in Greek the word that is translated ignorance here is the normal word for knowledge with an "a" added. Greek works like English does in this way or I should say English works like Greek does. For example, you take the English word "typical," typical means common, average, kind of every day, typical. But if you add the letter "a" which is technically and in grammatical language called the alpha privative, you add the letter "a" to "typical" and what do you get? The negation of typical, atypical. It's the opposite of typical, it's now "unusual," it's "atypical." The same thing happens with words like theism. You add an "a" to it and it becomes atheism, the opposite of, the absence of. So, the Greek word that's translated ignorance in this passage in the Greek text literally is "a"knowledge. The absence of knowledge, the opposite of knowledge, but because there's not an exact English equivalent the translators chose the English word ignorance.

Now it's very important to understand that there are several kinds of ignorance or "a"knowledge. There's the ignorance first of all that comes from the lack of information. You can be ignorant simply because you've never learned something you've never been taught it. That's how I am in reference to say astrophysics. I'm ignorant of it because I've never learned it. I've never been taught it. There's another kind of ignorance and that is an ignorance of a lack of understanding. This happened when I was teaching Bible and English at the college level; my students had this form of ignorance. This happened to me in school. My teachers would try to teach me certain subjects, and I was thoroughly exposed to that subject, and I learned enough of it to get through the class and to get through the test but I didn't thoroughly understand it. And so today even though I was taught it, even though I was given the information I'm essentially ignorant of it.

A good example of that would be macro economics. I took a course when I was in pre-law on macro economics. Well I understand the basic principles of supply and demand, but you get me far belong beyond that and I'm lost, I am ignorant. Not because I wasn't given information but because I didn't really understand that information. A third kind of ignorance is just that caused by a bad memory. You knew it. You understood it at one point in the past but you've forgotten it. And the most troubling example for me in that category is the names I often know and forget.

A fourth kind of ignorance though is what Paul is talking about here. It's something that I have both known and understood, but I have intentionally pushed out of my mind. It's not an accident that the verb form of the English word "ignorance" is "to ignore." Now we do this in relatively harmless ways every day, this kind of willful ignorance. For example, this is the kind of ignorance I have when it comes to where things are located in my kitchen at home. There was a time when I knew where things were, and I understood where most of the dishes and food and utensils were in the kitchen. But I have deliberately tried very hard to suppress that knowledge. Because I've discovered this, if Sheila doesn't think I know where things are, then it seriously lowers her expectations.

Or consider another example, most of us know and understand that eating fried foods is bad for our bodies and most of us know and understand that getting plenty of exercise is good for our bodies. But we suppress that knowledge, and we make another trip to Babe's Chicken Dinner house. We eat another hamburger. When we get home from work, we sit down on the couch and read a book or watch TV rather than hit the exercise equipment. Why? Because we're suppressing that knowledge so we can do what we want to do. We know it, we understand it, we're just kind of pushing it out of our mind so that we can feel comfortable doing what it is we want to do. And those are humorous or relatively harmless examples in the scope of eternity of how we exercise that sort of willful ignorance.

But folk's tragically unregenerate people choose to take exactly that same approach when it comes to their knowledge of God. They are ignorant of God and His ways, but their ignorance is not accidental it is willful. O'Brien, one commentator, calls this ignorance "An obstinate rejection of the truth of God." Another commentator says, "Ignorance is frequently a stance of the total man that includes his emotion, will, and action, not to know the Lord is as much as to ignore Him. Ignorance in this sense is equal to sin. It amounts to flagrant repudiation of God's revelation, a deliberate commission rather than an incidental omission or lack." You see the problem with unbeliever's ignorance of God isn't a lack of information; it isn't even a lack of understanding. It's his will.

You remember Hosea 4 where God says in verse 6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." You say great, well let's just give them information or maybe they didn't understand. Listen to what God says next. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you…."

That's what the sinner does. Let me show you how this works from Romans 1. Paul goes through this very clearly in Romans 1, and we're not going to take a lot of time with it, but I want you to see the progression of his thought. Romans 1, Paul wants us to know that God has given men all the information they need to respond rightly to Him as Creator. They have all the information that they need about Himself in the creation. Look at verse 19,

"… that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." [Nobody can claim the ignorance of a lack of information. Look at verse 20,] "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, [specifically] His eternal power and His divine nature, have been" [Watch this,] "clearly seen…."

God hasn't hidden Himself. He's made Himself evident to them. He's made it clear, they can clearly see it. So the problem is not a lack of information. Paul secondly says, there's not only plenty of information but they understand it. All men understand that information. Look at verse 19 again. "that which is known about God is evident" [Watch this] "within them;"

[And verse 20 says, that revelation of God in creation, look at verse 20] "being understood through what has been made…." They get it. They not only have the information from God the revelation from God, but they understand it and they see it. So that, verse 20 ends, "they are without excuse."

By the way, this answers the question about that that pagan lost in some jungle somewhere who's never been exposed to the gospel. He will be indicted on the information he had in creation. He had enough information about God and creation so that he has no excuse. He responded just like this. God made Himself evident, and he responded in rebellion to that information. He knew it, and he understood it, and that's true of all mankind. So understand this folks, if man knows and he understands how did he come to be ignorant of God? Well look back at verse 18, "for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" [Watch this] "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." They push it to the back edges of their mind so that they can do what they want to do, just like we do in trivial ways every day.

Now go back to Ephesians 4. Notice, Paul adds there this willful ignorance. He says "the ignorance that is in them." Literally the ignorance that is being in them. It's the state of being, having willfully chosen to shut God out of their minds what God had revealed about Himself, they are now living in a self-imposed state of ignorance about God and His will.

Let me give you a couple of contemporary examples of this willful ignorance. Take creation and evolution, the debate that rages back and forth. Did you see in Romans 1 that the problem is not a lack of information? You know, you and I look at the created world, and we kind of squint around, and we say, I don't get it. I don't see how anybody could look at all of this and come to the conclusion that it just happened. Well here's how it happens. It's not that God hasn't made it obvious and clear, nor is it that they don't understand it. They do understand it. Paul says they have suppressed that, they have pushed it to the outreaches of their mind where they don't have to deal with it where they can live like they want to live.

Take the acceptability of some moral lifestyle, like homosexuality. Again, understand the problem isn't with a lack of information or a lack of understanding. It's that man is willfully ignorant. Paul says in in Romans 1, look it's a sin, God made it clear by how He made the male and female bodies that men and women are intended for each other and not men and men and women with women. It's natural he says, they go against the natural, it's obvious. God's made it obvious, and they sin against that and some even use the Bible to excuse it. You know, I'm not making this up, but there are those who would say, the reason God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis is not because of the sin of homosexuality but because of a lack of hospitality. That's mental gymnastics, it's not that God hasn't made it clear; it's not that they don't understand it; it's that they are suppressing the truth.

Another example of this willful ignorance, and by the way, I'm not making fun of any group of people here, we all live like this, alright? This is how we live before Christ. Another example of this willful ignorance is whether Jesus is who He claimed, the divine Son of God. You know there are debates about that every year around the holidays, you know whether Christmas or Easter you see all these pros, well we're just not sure whether Jesus claimed that or whether He was that. Listen folks, what could God do to make it clear clearer? He spoke twice from heaven audibly, so that they heard Him. He gave power to His Son to do extraordinary miracles that even His enemies couldn't deny. He taught like no one else has ever taught. He lived a life that, even among most pagans, is this exemplary life that ought to be copied. And God even raised Him from the dead. Folks the problem is not a lack of information. Unregenerate men question His identity because of willful ignorance. Listen when unbelievers in your life are ignorant of God and His ways, they are willfully ignorant. They are suppressing the truth.

Now again remember the context. Paul is commanding us not to live like this. We are not to walk in willful ignorance of God and His revelation. How do we do that? How can we walk in willful ignorance of God's Person and God's ways? Well, by failing to understand what God has said. Listen, if God has spoken here, and I treat this book like a magazine that I can toss around, and maybe I'll get to it if I have a chance. I am living purposefully, willfully in ignorance that I don't need to live in. Or by knowing the truth of God, maybe I'm a thorough Bible student, I know the truth of God, but I ignore it in my every day life. I don't do anything with it. Just like James 1. You know a man who beholds himself his reflection in a mirror, he leaves and forgets the kind of person he was and does nothing about it. Listen you want to live in willful ignorance, sit under sermons like this, go to Sunday school class, study the Bible on your own, and then close it, walk away and forget you heard anything. Don't try to incorporate any of those things into your life you are living like a pagan. You are living in willful ignorance.

Why? Why has man chosen to suppress God's revelation? Well go back to Ephesians 4 because in the next phrase in verse 18, Paul tells us, "because of the hardness of their hearts." Paul continues to take us deeper into the unregenerate heart and mind on this sort of spiritual autopsy of unbelievers. He's defining the characteristics of how pagans live. They live with a worthless world view, with a darkened mind, with a lifeless soul and in willful ignorance.

And that brings us to the fifth defining characteristic how pagans live, with a hard heart, a hard heart. Notice verse 18 ends, "because of the hardness of their hearts." Here we reach the core problem. It's not a lack of information. It's not a lack of understanding. Unbelievers are willfully ignorant of God. They suppress the truth because they have hard hearts. Now in the Biblical usage the heart is the center of the real person. It's the seat of thought and understanding, the seat of the feelings, the emotions, the affections, the desires, the will. It is the entire inner person, the real person. And here Paul tells us that if you could look into the heart of every unbeliever, you would find a hard heart.

The Greek word that's translated hardness here is the word "poro'sis." It was used in the first century in a couple of ways. Aristotle the great Greek philosopher used this word "hardness" to describe the hard callous that forms at the point where a bone is broken. If you've ever had a broken bone you've looked at where that bone has knit together under an x-ray you can see that there's this sort of hard mineral callous that forms to knit those, where that bone has knit back together. It's very hard. It was also used, this word hardness to describe the consistency of a stone like marble but even harder than marble. So, when Paul says unbelievers have hardness of heart, it's like our expression "he's got a heart of stone." In fact, one translation even says, "their minds have grown hard as stone."

This is a frequent indictment in Scripture. But let me take you to one. Turn back to Zechariah, second to the last book in the Old Testament. Zechariah 7, listen to what God says to the people of Israel of Zechariah's day near the end of Old Testament history. Zechariah 7:8,

"then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying," [And God basically says,] "tell them to repent, tell them to live in keeping with what I've commanded." … Dispense true justice … practice kindness … compassion each to his brother, … do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; … do not devise evil in your hearts against one another." [Repent basically, verse 11,] "But they refused to pay attention and [they] turned a stubborn shoulder and they stopped their ears from hearing."

Picture a child who doesn't want to hear what another one is saying who takes his fingers and plunges it into his ears so he can't hear. Verse 12,

"They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen," says the LORD of hosts."

A hard heart, a heart that refuses to hear God that refuses to turn from sin and repent. When people have hard hearts it makes them unable to grasp the truth.

You remember the parable of the soils we looked at a couple of months ago, there was the stony heart? There was the heart where the ground had been walked on over and over again, and it had become hard the seed fell on it, and it couldn't pierce. And the birds came and snatched the gospel away. The hard heart the truth couldn't get into, resistant to the truth. Understand that in Biblical terms to be hard hearted is primarily a description of the human will. It's not something that just happens to you, it's something you are culpable for.

How does God respond to such hard hearts? Well if you look back, and you don't need to turn there but in Mark 3 we studied a while back on Sunday evening, Jesus encountered the hard heart of the Pharisees and this is how He responded. Mark 3:5, "Jesus looked around at the Pharisees with anger grieved at their hardness of heart."

God is angry and grieved at hard hearts. But God responds in another way as well and this one is kind of frightening. Where there is a hard, resistant heart to the truth of God, God further withholds His influence so that the heart becomes even harder. That's referred to in Scripture as God hardening the heart. It doesn't mean that God against somebody's will caused their heart to be hard. It means instead that because of their own hard heart against His will, God withdraws the softening influence of the work of His Spirit and the hard heart becomes even harder. The classic example of course is Pharaoh. I don't have time to take you back there but you remember some five times we're told Pharaoh's heart was hardened without being told how. Then three times we're told Pharaoh sinned and hardened his heart against God. And then six times we're told God hardened Pharaoh's heart. How? By withholding those softening influences and letting Pharaoh's heart play out its own evil character.

That's what happens in Romans 1. You remember in Romans 1, three times Paul says, "God gave them over, God gave them over, God gave them over." That's God's hardening; He's removing the influence and the work of His Spirit. And the heart grows hard. Understand this tragic fact, an unbeliever hardens his own heart, he refuses to submit his will to God, but there my come a time in the life of that person when God has had enough and He withdraws those influences that could soften the heart, and it becomes harder and harder and harder. Paul is telling us here don't live like a hard-hearted pagan. Don't cultivate a hard heart.

What's the opposite of a hard heart? A tender heart as it's called in the Scripture. Cultivate a tender heart toward your own sin and toward the word of God. I don't have time to do this, but I'm going to do it. Turn with me to 2 Kings, because I want you to see this, I want you to see what this looks like, 2 Kings 22. You remember the story of Josiah the good king in Judah; they find a copy of God's law. It's been buried, they find it, he hears it read to him and he repents. And because of that listen to what God says to Josiah through the prophet. Second Kings 22:18,

"But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD thus shall you say to him; 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel, "Regarding the words which you have (the words which you have) heard, because [Josiah] your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke … and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the LORD."'"

And God withholds His judgment. Here's what the opposite of a hard heart is. It's a heart, a tender heart that hears the word of God and is broken over your own sin, is willing to turn from it, you humble yourself before God, you hear His word, you submit yourself to Him. Or you can make your heart hard like flint, where you hear the word of God and you will not turn, you will not submit, you will not obey; you want your own way, and some day God will remove those softening influences from you and let you go your own way. Soft heart.

Those are the characteristics of all unbelievers; they are defined by a worthless world view, a darkened mind, a lifeless soul, a willful ignorance, and a hard heart.

But let me ask you this as we finish our time, why does Paul take so much time to give us this here? Why does he take so much time and space to rehearse these characteristics of unbelievers in such great detail to the Christians in Ephesus and to us? Well obviously, he wants us to see it and to hate it and to turn from it. Stop living like that. But I think there's something more. Paul wants us to understand what we have been rescued from. Folks this is us. This is our autopsy. This is the autopsy of our souls apart from the grace of Christ. We need to understand the grace of God.

Listen to Lloyd-Jones,

"A superficial view of sin," [you don't understand all of this,] "A superficial view of sin leads to a superficial view of salvation and to a superficial view of everything else. So we follow the apostle as he shows us the depths of sin and iniquity in order that we may be enabled to measure the height and the depth and the breadth and the length and know the love of Christ."

Listen you will only go as deep in your in your love for Christ as you go deep in your understanding of the depravity of your own soul and what God saved you from. You'll only go as high in worship of God as you go deep in understanding of what you the pit from which you have been digged.

Recently I've been learning a new song that puts this so well for me. Listen to the words of the second verse, "I was blinded by my sin, had no ears to hear Your voice, did not know Your love within, had no taste for heavens joys. Then Your Spirit gave me life, opened up Your Word to me, through the gospel of Your Son gave me endless hope and peace." Folks as we track through these verses, understand that's your anatomy. That's the configuration of your soul. That's your spiritual autopsy if God had not intervened in grace. And you would have ended up exactly where these will end up, apart from the grace of God. May it drive us to worship and praise and adoration.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this amazing description, for the insight it gives us.

Lord, help us to hate what we used to be, and help us to turn from it even as Paul is urging us to do here.

And Father, help us to reflect on what You have saved us from by grace so that we love You more profoundly and we praise You with all of our hearts, with all of our souls.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.