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LIVING WITH NEW ATTITUDES

Ephesians 4:17-24
12th October 2003

A controversial study released this month, claims gay men and women can be transformed into heterosexuals through psychotherapy. The study published one week ago in USA, claims that, of 200 homosexuals and lesbians given psychotherapy treatment, 78% of males and 95% of females reported a change in their sexuality. The findings contradict the widely promoted view that sexuality is determined genetically.

Gay rights groups are outraged by the study, saying it treated homosexuality as an illness or a behavioral choice. Ironically, the psychiatrist who led the study, Professor Robert Spitzer, helped to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental illnesses in 1973. He insisted his study was valid and said some gays "bothered" by their homosexuality wanted to be heterosexual and had a right to such treatment. "The current, politically correct view is that this therapy never works. I think it doesn't work a lot of the time, but in some people it does." Christian groups like Exodus make this claim in groups all over the world. Professor Spitzer's study involved 143 gay men and 57 lesbians who volunteered to have "reparative therapy"' with religious organisations.

Professor Spitzer and his Columbia University team found most participants had become either wholly or predominantly heterosexual, with women more likely to have changed than men. The findings were published in the US journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, October 8, 2003. This will reignite the debate about whether Christian homosexuals should live in homosexual relationships if they believe Jesus Christ can change them.

The gospel claims you can become a brand new person. You can have new life in Jesus Christ. Even the person with the most hardened life style can be changed through their wholesale commitment to Jesus Christ. Nothing is outside His power to change - not even your sexuality. Those who do not believe this, of course, will not be changed, but to those who believe, all things are possible. Those of us who are Christian have traded in our old lives and have a new life in return from God. God has made us different, working from the inside out. He has reconciled us with Himself, given us new life, and a new beginning no matter our former life-style.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he encouraged them to start a new life, to get rid of his or her old life with its habits, attitudes, and its immorality, and take instead a new life with a new attitude, behaviour pattern and a new start. That emphasis upon personal morality, of living a sanctified life, is not popular today. Some want to say they are Christian, but continue in their old life-style. They say that is their right. So you get oxymorons like a "Christian adulterer", a "Christian terrorist" and a "Christian homosexual". But you cannot be both at the same time. The Uniting Church has been un-Biblical in its desire to accept everyone and not demand change. The Bible demands standards of personal sanctification, morality, and ethics in personal living. The Bible makes it clear that ministry is always based upon personal morality. If you want to speak to what the world ought to do, first you ought to be an example of it in your own life. Your personal lifestyle must be an example of integrity and quality. Paul set before us an interesting challenge in this reading from Ephesians 4.

1. REJECT THE GODLESS LIFE.

Paul says three simple things. "...do not continue to live like the heathen." v17 You must reject the godless life. Paul is giving us direct counselling. It is fashionable these days to be non directive, laid back, non judge-mental, reflective and repeating only what you hear the other person saying. But Paul tells you "Do not continue to live like the heathen." That is blunt. Judgemental. Christian! Then he describes what the heathen are like. He says two basic things about them: "...whose thoughts are worthless", "....and whose minds are in the dark." Before dealing with specific moral injunctions, Paul reminds his readers about the kind of life they once lived and the need for a clean break with the past. He implores the Ephesians to abandon all their former practices. He does so because both he and they are now "in the Lord." He urges the Gentiles not to fall back into their old self-indulgent habits. Such permissive behavior springs from an aimless attitude to life that cuts the nerve of moral endeavour.

There are many calls within the community for us to get together with people with all kinds of backgrounds, interests and attitudes; people who are atheistic and agnostic, to discuss various issues. But that dialogue ought always be balanced with the fact that the Scriptures declare that those who live in darkness do not know the mind of God and their thoughts are worthless. Paul says that if your mind is darkened, and thoughts are worthless, this is going to have an effect upon how you behave. Behavioural problems and physical sinfulness do not just occur. They start in the mind with thoughts and ideas. Ideas lead to action, and action to behaviour.

If your mind is dark, and if your thoughts are worthless, then this will flow out in your behaviour. Paul says that once their minds are darkened, "they have no part in the life that God gives." v18 They are alienated from God, and because of this they cannot live Godly lives. "They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint." How can a church approve of such behaviour? Paul is not talking about ignorance in biology or mathematics or in some scientific endeavour. He is talking about their under-standing of human nature. Alienation from God means a narrowness of mind.

Paul says that narrowness of mind, means "they have lost all feelings of shame." Once you have been alienated from God and your mind has become narrow and prejudiced, your heart becomes turned to stone. This reprehensible attitude is traced to its source. Such people are impeded by a mental fog that blots out the divine light. They are cut off from contact with God and the life He alone can impart. Such a condition arises from deep-seated ignorance. Although inborn, it was not irreversible and might have been removed had they followed such light as came to them. Instead, they steeled their hearts against the truth till they grew altogether impervious to its impact. "Lost all feeling of shame", "hardening" describes a state of petrifaction. It is used medically to denote the callus formed when a bone has been fractured and reset. Such a callus is even harder than the bone itself. This dreadful porosis has affected the very hearts of such people. Their whole personality is incapable of appreciating what God offers.

They can no longer respond to moral stimuli. Their consciences are so atrophied that sin registers no stab of pain. "They give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint." There is a fundamental reason why we opposed ministers of the Gospel living in same-sex marriages and behaving sexually in homosexual relationships. The Bible teaches quite clearly, that "they have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint."

This life-style becomes so absorbing as almost to become a total preoccupation. All this is pursued (as various translations put it) "in greediness" or "immoderate, inordinate desire", "with a continual lust for more." If you are alienated from God, if your mind has been narrowed, if you have had an insensitivity of heart that leads you to immorality in behaviour, you will do all sorts of terrible things without shame.

Let me say to you, those terrible things are in action in Sydney today. Ours is a society of corruption. Almost everything that is valued about the innocence and beauty of childhood is debased by some people sexually. There are other people who have all kinds of perversions. They do not realise what they are reaping, because they are alienated from God, narrowed of mind, hardened of heart, and licentious in their behaviour. Once we move into this type of decadence within our society, when family life is broken, we reap a terrifying result, not only in the lives of adults but in little children and confused teenagers.

2. REMEMBER THE MATCHLESS LIFE.

As a clear alternative, Paul gives a ringing call: "That was not what you learned about Christ! You certainly heard about Him, and as His followers you were taught the truth that is in Jesus." v20-21 "You" no longer remain insensitive, passion-dominated pagans but you need "to learn Christ". Not just facts about Jesus but to learn in such a way as to become His disciples. It was the Christ they thus came to know--God's anointed Son. "The truth that is in Jesus" is the heart of our faith. Paul does not often employ the historical name "Jesus" and when he does, it is invariably in connection with our Lord's death and resurrection. The truth in Jesus has to do with the fact that the man from Nazareth was shown by His rising again to be the Son of God and Saviour of the world who cared for people. He was not selfish. The one thing that stands out about the sinful life is that it is very selfish. It is always how "I" feel, what "I" want, about "my" relationships. When you look to Jesus, there is a model of selflessness on whom you may pattern your life.

3. RENEW YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE.

Paul says v22 24. "Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy." He has two clear instructions: "put on the new self" and live "the true life that is upright and holy." In the early church people came to the water of baptism wearing old clothes which symbolised their old ways and habits. They put off their old garments and were baptised into Christ. When they were raised up out of the water they put on new, white, clean garments as a symbol that they had "put on the new self." That is blunt. That is a directive.

Jesus Christ saved you, He died on the cross. He has done it for you and you must appropriate it for yourself, you must put Him on you. Your life style has to be discarded completely. You must forsake old haunts NIV "your former way of life" and instead of progressive deterioration, be perpetually renovated in your mind and spirit. "Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy." This can only take place under the influence of the Holy Spirit, acting on the human spirit as it affects the realm of thought. The "new self" is the direct opposite of the worthless "old self". It is not your former nature simply altered around a little, but a totally new creation made after the image of Jesus Christ. Hence the characteristics of the divine image "reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy."

They are the marks of your new life as a Christian truth, uprightness and holiness. You have a new mind, a new thought pattern. Therefore you have new behaviour. Because Jesus Christ has cleansed you by His death upon the cross, He now equips and empowers you through the Holy Spirit to lead a new life that is true, upright and holy. You need to live with new attitudes, to get rid of the old life and its habits, desires and thoughts; a life that is alienated from God, narrowed in its thinking, hardened in its heart, licentious in its behaviour, and put on a new life that is like that of Jesus Christ, a life that is true, upright and holy. That is the life Jesus Christ offers you. Believe in Jesus and change your attitudes right now! Your change of attitude will lead to change of behaviour and new living.

REFERENCES.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.