Ephesians 4 is perhaps on of the most crucial portions of Scripture concerning the spiritual life of the believer. While the truths stated here are echoed throughout Scripture and the NT, so many statements about the inner life of the believer are made clearly and directly in this passage:
…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called (v. 1)
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (v. 13)
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (v. 14)
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 (v. 17)
But you did not learn Christ in this way [the way the Gentiles live] (v. 20)
…lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (v. 22)
…be renewed in the spirit of your mind (v. 23)
and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (v. 24)
Therefore, laying aside falsehood (v. 25)
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth (v. 29)
Walk worthy of Christ. Don’t live like the unregenerate Gentiles. Live like the resurrected Christ who saved you. Put off the deeds of the old man and the flesh. Put on the deeds of the new man and the Spirit. Let your mind be renewed. Shun deceit and lies. Don’t speak (or think) unwholesome words and ideas.
While I have been thinking much and often about these words as I have slowly been preaching through this chapter, these verses again came to mind this morning when I read an article about the new movie, Twilight.
On one hand, it is possible for believers to be over-reactive to various influences and trends. We need not be fear mongers — trading in anxieties and worries. We do have liberty in Christ; we are not bound to the Law.
But our freedom in Christ is always subject to the principles above. Our liberty is subject to living worthy of Christ. Our liberty is to be carried out in subordination to Christ’s salvation. Our liberty should not reflect the unbelieving lies of an unregenerate lifestyle. Our liberty should evidence that our minds are being renewed by Christ and not conformed to the world. And the activities of our liberty should evidence freedom from sin and bondage to righteousness.
Those are critical observations. Liberty in Christ never means “do whatever you want.” Liberty in Christ means we have been freed to love Christ with all our heart and soul and mind and strength — and then doing whatever we want (for then our desires will be conformed to His desires).
Moreover, even if something is a genuine liberty — it does not conform to evil and it is in concert with a life that is worthy of Christ, it still may not be profitable. And if it is not profitable for edification, should not something else be considered? That does not mean that every single waking moment must be given over to ministry and Bible study and prayer and counsel; but it does mean that our days are short and we must redeem the time we have been given for godly purposes. And most of us, if an accurate accounting were given, spend too much time on frivolous liberties and not enough time on eternally redemptive purposes.
This highly popular book series was recently released as a movie. And numbers of believers are apparently both viewing the movie and reading the books with an assumption something like, “It’s just a book and it’s just fiction — it’s okay for me to watch and read.”
And yet as Sue Bohlin has pointed out so well, what we read and what we watch is important:
Of course, we hear the refrain, “Oh come on. It’s just a book. It’s just fiction.” But all forms of entertainment are a wrapper for values and a message, and we need to be aware of what it is. Remember, what we take into our imaginations is really like food for our souls. If something has poison in it, it shouldn’t be eaten. Saying “It’s just a book, who cares what it is as long as we’re reading,” is equivalent to saying, “If you can put it in your mouth and swallow it, it must be food.” What are you feeding your soul? Goodness or poison?
This is the very point of Ephesians 4. To lay aside fleshly, old man activities and to put on spiritual new man activities means our mind must be renewed. That’s why we need Scripture. And that’s why we must be discerning about what we read and watch that isn’t Biblical — because everything we ingest through our eyes is working to either transform us into the image of Christ or conform us to the world. And Bohlin demonstrates repeatedly in her article that Twilight is anything but neutral about the spiritual life and about our perception of evil.
Vampires are evil, and you can’t just turn them “good” by writing them that way.…
One of the messages of Twilight is that there is a way to have immortal life, eternal life, apart from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; that there is a way to live forever without dealing with the obstacle of our sin problem by confessing that we are sinners and we need the forgiveness and grace of a loving Savior.
This is a spiritually dangerous series.…
Twilight is also spiritually dangerous in the way it presents salvation. When Daddy Vampire Carlisle turns Edward into a vampire, it is described as saving him. He ended a 17-year-old boy’s physical life and turned him into an undead, stone cold superbeing, which Edward describes as a “new birth.” Vampire Alice describes the process as the venom spreading through the body, healing it, changing it, until the heart stops and the conversion is finished. Poison heals, and changes, and converts to lifelessness? Healing poison? This is spiritually dangerous thinking. Isaiah warns us (5:20), “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”…
…there is a spirit of seduction in the Twilight saga. Something supernatural draws millions of readers to fantasize about being desired, pursued and falling in love with a character that I believe has a deeply demonic component. It’s dangerous on several levels.…
Twilight is dangerous because it subtly stretches us into accommodating that which God calls sin. People don’t leap from embracing good to embracing evil in one giant step; it’s a series of small, incremental allowances. Readers easily accept unthinkingly an unmarried couple spending every single night together when the Word says to avoid every form of evil and to flee temptation, not lie there cuddling with it! Readers are led to accept as heroes and friends vampires who murder human beings to drink their blood.
Bohlin concludes her article [please take time to read the entire article if you have read or have children or grandchildren who are reading these books] by citing a number of questions that a teacher has asked about the book and movie in relation to our fellowship with Christ. Frankly, these are good kinds of questions to ask whenever we are conflicted about any decision about liberty or some perceived liberty:
Question 1 – Me and God
- How is this thing building my relationship with the Lord?
- How does my interest in this area compare with my time invested in my relationship with the Lord?
Question 2 – Me and the People Around Me
- Is this creating conflict in my family or with others?
- What am I saying to my non-Christian friends or what example am I setting for others?
- Does it offend other believers or is it confusing them in their faith?
Question 3 – The Bible
- What does the Bible have to say about this? Who does it glorify—God or Satan? Jesus or the things of the World?
Question 4 – Me and Twilight (or whatever applies)
- How is this affecting what I think about; my attitude, heart, and mind?
- Does it help me to do what is right according to God? Or, does it promote things of the world?
- Does it distract me from the Lord and my relationships with others? Serving, praying, reading Bible, ministry, etc.
- Does it cause me to say, think, or do things that are contrary to Jesus and his life?
These are the kinds of questions that should guide my actions so that I might continue to pursue a life with Christ that is worthy of Him and His salvation.
It’s not “just a book” and it’s not “just a movie.” It’s a vehicle that will either draw me to Christ or lead me away from Christ. May our choices reflect an ever-increasing renewal of mind toward Christ.