What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.20-24

“What Are We Thinking?” Live like believers

Ephesians 4:20-24

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.20-24

Ephesians chapter 4. Our text will be verses 20-24. The Bible teaches that when the Lord saves someone, that person receives many things. When someone turns from this fleeting world and turns away from his sin and even himself, and trusts Christ alone, the Lord gives that person many new things.

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One of the things that we receive is a brand-new new nature. When we are converted through faith and repentance of sin, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and regenerates us. What that means is that the Holy Spirit gives us a new nature. We are born spiritually speaking. We are born by the Holy Spirit.

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And when we were regenerated, our passage this morning teaches us that we were taught certain things about our new nature.

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But first, let’s remind ourselves about last week. Last week we discovered the psychology of the unbeliever.

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This is in Ephesians 4:17-19. Let’s read these verses to learn about the unbeliever.

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Ephesians 4:17-19 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk [or live…that you live] no longer just as the Gentiles also live, in the futility of their mind [that phrase, “futility of their mind” we argued last week refers to the moral failure of the unbelieving mind. So the unbeliever fails morally. Why? Well, verse 18 it is because they are in the dark…and these phrases build on one another … unbelievers fail morally speaking because they are], 18 being darkened in their understanding [why are they dark their understanding? It is because they are….] excluded from the life of God [and that’s] because of the ignorance that is in them, [and that is] because of the hardness of their heart; [they are holding down the truth with their own sin. And now because they have this mind, they live a certain way verse 19… ] 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

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This is a psychological description of every unbeliever. They follow after their own desires, no matter how moral they seem to be. And they desire more and more of their own way. And their lifestyles prove it.

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So the psychology or the inner man is in focus in these verses. You can see that, look at the end of verse 17 “mind.” Verse 18 understanding, ignorance, the heart. So verses 17-19 focus on the unbeliever’s mind.

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And now let’s pick out other words in verses 20-24 that focus on the mind or the inner man.

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Ephesians 4:20-24 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him [there is a word for word learning] and have been taught in Him [where does teaching happen? In the mind, the inner man….], just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self [there is a word for the spiritual side of unbelievers], which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

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Learn, heard, taught, self, mind…these are all words of our inner man.So you can see the focus on the mind. Last week we learned the psychology of the unbeliever. This week, in verses 20-24, we have the psychology of the believer. Last week we learned about the moral capacity the unbeliever. And this week we learn about the moral functioning of the believer.

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And so naturally, you have a fundamental difference. There is a stark contrast between the believer and the unbeliever. And this is expressed to us in verse 20.

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Paul just described the psychology of the unbeliever and now he makes a dramatic turn … When he writes

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Ephesians 4:20-21 But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,

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And the main part of the passage is verses 22-24 where we read about the morally successful mind. The unbelieving mind is morally unsuccessful. At the end of verse 17. Paul says the unbeliever lives in the futility of his mind. His mind is futile in the sense that it does not reach a goal. And the goal in the context is a moral goal. The unbelieving mind does not reach God’s moral standards.

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But when we received Christ, there was the total change. The inner man is completely different. What we have in verses 22-24 are three things that were we taught at the moment of salvation.

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Verse 21 you have heard him and you have been taught in him. … What have you been taught? Verse 22 that you …. And this is a past tense verb in the original language in verse 22 … that you laid aside the old self. And verse 23 you were taught that you … Literally that you are being renewed in the spirit of your mind and in verse 24 literally you were taught that you put on the new self. This all happened at the moment of salvation. You were taught this, verse 21 says. And verses 22-24 is what we were taught when we got saved.

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TRANS: So first in verses 20-21, when you trusted Christ you did not learn moral failure. When you trusted Christ, you did not learn moral failure.

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  1. When You Trusted Christ, You Did Not Learn Moral Failure (Eph. 4:20-21)

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Ephesians 4:20-21 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,

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Notice the phrase “learn Christ.” To learn a person is an interesting concept. This would be that intimate knowledge of Christ. This would be a phrase to describe a real vibrant relationship. In other words, learning a person, learning Christ describes a relationship where two people are more intimate than just on speaking terms. There is actually something functional and progressive in that relationship. There is mutual delight and satisfaction.

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When you trusted Christ for salvation, you learned Christ in a real and powerful way.

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Another way to describe this is in verse 21. Ephesians 4:21 if indeed [or for our understanding this morning we could say “since” … This is an if statement that assumes the truth of itself … So you have not learned Christ in a morally failing way like Gentiles since …. Verse 21 … ] you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.

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“Learned Christ” “heard him” and “have been taught in him” … These are all phrases to describe that intimate knowledge that saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The truth is in Jesus!

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And you have been taught in Him this morning if you have turned from sin and you have called upon Him to be saved.

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But what is it that you have been taught? You were taught the content of verses 22-24.

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  1. When You Trusted Christ, You Were Taught Moral Success (Eph. 4:22-24)

You were taught 3 things, first that you verse 22 “laid aside” the old self. You were taught verse 23 … that you “are being renewed” in the spirit of your mind and thirdly, you were taught that you “put on” the new self.

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When you came to Christ, you may not have been able to put it in those words, but the Holy Spirit did this work in you and you knew something was different.

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ILL: When I came to Christ, I learned this. In fact this was the very first passage of Scripture that I learned! In fact, the Lord used this passage to save me. When I visited the campus of Bob Jones University for the first time, I met with someone in leadership and he asked me about my relationship with God.

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And at that time, I had desire to change but have no power to live the way I knew I was supposed to live before God. I did believe the facts about Jesus: that he is the Lord, God in flesh. I believed that he and died on the cross for my sins and I believed that he was raised from the dead. But I had not yet receive salvation. And the reason is because the Holy Spirit had not yet regenerated my heart and he had not taught me verses 22-24.

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And when this gentleman preached to me these verses, the Holy Spirit empowered my heart and the Lord regenerated me. He empowered me to lay aside the old self taught me that I was on a new path of being renewed in the spirit of my mind, and he taught me that I put on the new self. And he taught you that this is what happened, as well, although you probably couldn’t describe it at the time.

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I will never forget the joyous sensations of those broken chords vibrating again. I will never forget the feelings of the chains falling off and the power of sin canceled. Many of you can remember the joy of your initial salvation.

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This is a passage for salvation.

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So let’s look at the verses. Here is what he taught you as well when you trusted Christ and turned from your sin …

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Ephesians 4:22-24 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, [you have been taught #1 that you… Past tense this happened that salvation that you… laid] aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and [he taught you #2] that you [literally… are being] renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and [#3 at salvation he taught you that you] put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

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  1. You were taught that you laid aside the old self

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Again, this all happened that salvation. Verse 20 you learned Christ in a different way at that moment. You received a new nature in order to be a morally success, not a moral failure. You learned Christ since you have heard him and have been taught in him. And here’s what you were taught: to lay aside the old man. That happened at salvation.

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ARG: That phrase “lay aside” is a simple past tense in the original language. This is something that happened at salvation. The reason or that is because as a believer, at the end of verse 22, you no longer have an old self that is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. This kind of corruption is the cause of spiritual separation from God and eventually eternal separation from God. It makes no sense they your old self is continuing to be corrupted because of continuing deceitful lusts. Believers don’t experience that sort of corruption that is caused by deceitful lusts. You laid him aside.

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So you were taught something concerning your former manner of life. That former way of life is described in verses 17-19 of this chapter. The unbeliever is described there. The unbeliever is futile in his mind, darkened in his understanding excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in him … his hardness of heart and as a result of all this him being callous practicing sensuality, impurity….

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But a believer is taught something concerning that former manner of life. You were taught verse 22 that you laid him aside. You laid aside that old self.

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That old self is being corrupted because of deceitful lusts. The unbeliever has not laid aside the old self. The old self really is himself. And he, himself, is being corrupted because of the deceitful lusts.

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But you have not learned Christ in this way! Believers have a fundamental break with the past. The moment of salvation, there is a forsaking it all and a laying aside of that old man. This is repentance.

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What is described here is a turning away … from anything that might displease God. You decide you want to turn your back on anything that is sinful. At the moment of salvation is repentance.

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Mark 8:34-36 34 Jesus says … “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

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Jesus pictures repentance as taking up the cross. You very literally but in a spiritual way, you must die to receive eternal life. Later in Mark 9, Jesus pictures repentance in a physical way. Jesus says it’s kind of like being a willing to cut off your physical hand if you need to in order to live.

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ILL: If you were in certain physical circumstances, you would do just that. To save your life, you would cut off your hand. If you were trapped, you would cut of your own hand to save your physical life. A famous example is Aron Ralston. He was trapped for 127 hours and finally did the unthinkable in order to save his physical life.

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And that is exactly what is required of us spiritually. There is a decisive and very serious break. When someone comes to Christ, he knows that he is trapped in his in. And if he does not make a break from his sin and from the life that he loves, he will die in the sins for ever. No one comes to Christ without that mindset. You cannot come after Christ without first hating your own life.

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There is no salvation without repentance. There is no eternal life without a real desire to turn from sin. Jesus went about everywhere preaching repentance, Mark 1:15. This was a focus of Jesus ministry. He requires it for salvation.

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ILL: And Paul here pictures repentance as a laying aside the old self. The word “lay aside” here was used to describe what you do when you take off clothing.

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Let’s say you go outside and you get filthy dirty. It’s a dirty shirt dirty pants everything is dirty… you yourself are dirty. You come in the house and you lay those aside… In fact they are so bad you just throw away.

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That’s exactly what this is talking about. The old self is gone! Crucified! Dead!

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Colossians 3:3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

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You have died!

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Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin

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The old self was crucified! That’s how it died! Body of sin, done away with…. You took up your cross and followed Christ!

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Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

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Romans 6:11 … so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

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This is fundamental to our understanding of growth in Christ. If you are struggling in your walk with Christ and you sin and you sin and you sin. You need to be reminded of these facts this morning …. That when you received Christ, you died. You laid aside those old filthy clothes. And those clothes are in the garbage. That old self is laid aside; it’s gone!

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TRANS: At salvation, God in his kindness led you to repentance. He requires repentance of you. And you laid aside that old “you.”

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Now, the problem is that yes, we have laid aside the old self but the dirt is still on us! We’ve taken off the dirty clothes and thrown them in the garbage, but we need a bath! If you trusted Christ, you have laid aside the old self … But some of the dirty sin is still on you.

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That sin from the old self still makes us dirty. At the end of verse 22 says, you yourself might not be corrupted because of deceitful lusts, but the filth from that old self can still get on you.

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And it’s that that we need to be careful of.

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Process of Growth

You were taught this at salvation, but these passages also give us a process for spiritual growth. In order to grow in Christ, we must recognize that concept in us that in us still is yet a heart that is deceitful. We must understand that the old us is crucified and that the new us can get stained with sin. There is yet evil with him. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

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So to grow in Christ, you first must recognize your sinful heart. You still have the desire sometimes to look… and gaze at those old ugly clothes … oh, that seems so enticing … or you just get so angry that…. Or “I just gotta have that!” But your heart is deceitful.

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So recognize your evil heart. And also understand how your own desires will get you to sin. Your sinful desires might not be exactly the same as mine. James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

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So you may be tempted in ways that I may not be tempted. You must careful with your own propensity to sin.

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Humble yourself underneath God’s mighty hand and see God do a work of renewing your mind.

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TRANS: That’s next in our passage … You were taught at salvation the that you are being renewed in the spirit of your mind. So from verse 23, you were taught at salvation that you are to grow spiritually.

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  1. You were taught to spiritually grow.

Again from verse 21 you have been taught in him that… verse 23 … you are being renewed in the spirit of your mind. This is a passive verb that keeps going …. and so it should have been translated “you are being renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

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So this is something that is done to you. “You are being renewed.” The spirit of your mind….the word spirit here can refer to an attitude. The Greeks used the word that way. And mind you remember can have the nuance of morality, as it does in our passage. So you are being renewed in the attitude of your mind, or your moral outlook. This is a description of spiritual growth. When you received Christ, you were taught that this was going to be happening, constant renewal of your moral outlook, your spiritual growth.

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And to accomplish growth in you, Christ is using the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer, fellowship with God’s people, church life, and our ministry to one another, as well as trials in times of difficulties.

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So in our day-to-day life, we must seek the Lord. If we desire him and desire his word and desire fellowship with him, he will change us and renew our inner man in order that we may be truly blessed, spiritually prosperous. We must desire God and seek him to be changed to be like him.

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As you seek Him and desire him, you will know him, and that true knowledge of Him will change you to be like him.

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TRANS: And this growth is possible because verse 24 you were taught that you put on the new self at salvation, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” This new self makes you able to grow.

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  1. You were taught that you put on the new self

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This new person responds to God.

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You have put off the old person and have put on the new person. You can’t have both. You are a new creature in Christ Jesus. But how did this new person come to be? Verse 24 teaches that God has created in the believer a new nature, a new person. And God has created this new person in the likeness of Himself! Your new nature is created in the image of God!

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The moment a believer is regenerated at that moment, God has created in him the new person which is created in the likeness of God himself.

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ILL: So the picture is that each believer has put off the old person like a dirty shirt and has put on a brand new shirt, clean and white.

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When God created Adam, the Bible says that he created him in his own image. And after Adam fell, the image of God was marred. It was scuffed up. And because of that, we are all found in the sinful rebellious state against God.

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And when we are born, we are all made after the likeness of sinful Adam.

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But in Christ, the image of God is restored and regained. It is a new creation. This new creation is a new nature in us and now the old things have passed away and behold the new has come.

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When you received Christ, you became a new creation. And you have been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. You have been created in Christ Jesus and now your new nature is described as righteousness. And you can now be described as holiness. Because that’s what you’ve been created in: righteousness and holiness.

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And your desires now are to be for this very thing: righteousness and holiness. You need to be what you were created to be. You need to be righteous in that you need to fulfill your obligations before God and man. And you also need to be holy in that you are to be devoted and reverent toward God. You are separated unto God to fulfill your obligations. So be devoted to him.

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This is totally unlike the old man. The old man as we see in verse 22 that old person that was laid aside at salvation … that old nature of ours was being corrupted because of the deceitful lusts. That’s the old “you.” But the new “you” is different. It was created by God. And created in his likeness, at that! The new you has nothing to do with any deceitful desires but instead is described as righteousness and holiness.

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It does not have any deceit behind it, this is the way it should be!

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You don’t sense any deceit in the desires for righteousness and holiness. But those sinful desires are indeed deceitful.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.20-24

The desires that are in the world are deceitful. The desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and the pride of life that wants to live in rebellion against God these are not from the Father but from the world. And the world is passing away and … then with what will you be left? If you follow after the desires of this world, you’ll be left with nothing in the end.

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And so I am afraid that just like when Satan deceived Adam and Eve by his craftiness … I’m afraid that your minds as well will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. That is a possibility. You must seek Christ!

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These desires of the old man that we have laid aside still touch us at times. And these desires trick us. We know they are fleeting …. They don’t last long. We know that those desires are only for this life and when we partake of them, we are left only more empty. The desires of this world …. They’re like chasing the wind. They promise satisfaction and joy and happiness but they only work to deceive you to draw you away from devotion to Christ.

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So let us be quick then to encourage one another day after day so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

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So, in this passage we have the scriptural process of spiritual growth.

Change will happen in your life as you first, recognize your own evil heart. Change will begin to happen as you second, understand how your uniquely deceitful heart deceives you and you become aware of that and choose to fight against it. You gotta humble yourself if this is your condition!

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Third, change will happen as you desire to be renewed in your heart to be like Christ. Fourth, change will happen as you seek the Lord with all of your heart. It’s then that you’ll receive true knowledge of Him that changes the way you live.

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Growth happens when you recognize your own evil heart, understand how your uniquely deceitful heart is deceiving you, desire to be renewed in your heart to be like Christ and seek the Lord with all of your heart, and receive true knowledge of him as you seek him in prayer and the word of God.

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You will change as you fill all your vision with Christ! Let’s sing about that …

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462 Be Thou My vision.

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