Yesterday we said that the overall mission for every Christian leader is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. This involves leaders training their flock by serving others alongside their church. And we are to be equipped so “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph 4:14-15)
After describing Christ as the head, in verse 15, Paul now discusses the rest of the spiritual “body” of the church: “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:16). Each individual part must work together, according to its design and purpose, and in the intended way, in order for the body to function properly. This means that when one person is weak, the rest of the body of Christ suffers.
So as we have matured and realize that everything is not about us, we come to Paul’s next text that contrasts the new life believers have in Christ, as opposed to the “old life” of the world. “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph 4:17-19)
Fatalism, hopelessness and darkness of the mind comes from somewhere. A person doesn’t wake up one day and feel completely separated from the life of God. It grows gradually. And it’s a symptom of a deeper problem – continually choosing to harden the heart. How does this happen? The heart gets hardened by many small moments of rebellion against God… choosing not to believe in His character, His promises and His commands.
Bread gets stale and then hardened over several days of sitting in the air. Exposure to rebellion over a period of time through music, images, videos and rebellious friends will produce a hardened heart. The results of a hardened heart are devastating – the loss of sensitivity, fully immersed in impurity and controlled by lust. Unbelievers are separated from God, and the life He gives in salvation, and they can’t experience God in their life apart from salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8).
As saved believers, the Ephesians were once “spiritual” Gentiles, but no longer. Paul says they can’t continue to live as unbelievers and expect to please God. Unbelievers have a very different mindset from those who are saved by Christ, described as “futile”. Ultimately, the goals of unbelievers have no point or purpose. In contrast, believers live with a clear purpose: to glorify God through making disciples. An unbeliever lives a life with a heart hardened against God, so they can’t understand what God tries to teach them (1 Cor 2:14).
The fruit produced by a hardened heart is spelled out in another epistle: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)
As Christ followers, we can’t walk through our lives like this. Instead, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16) To walk in the Spirit, we must humble ourselves before the Lord and ask Him to lead our way, and wait for Him because we trust in Him. Ask the Spirit to search your life for rebellion and unbelief that would lead to a hardness of heart. Repent of choices to harden your own heart. Softness and sensitivity will follow.