17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.
20 But that is not how you came to know Christ, 21 assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. – Ephesians 4:17-24 (CSB)
I like the number three. I mean, what other opinion should a Baptist preacher have of the number three? There’s the Trinity…and every good sermon should have three points! Now, I also like the number three for other reasons, the chief among them being that it is the number, both of the greatest NASCAR driver ever–Dale Earnhart, SR.–and the greatest baseball player ever–Babe Ruth (of course!).
Here in the section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians before us today, I see another, very significant ‘three.’ As the Holy Spirit inspires Paul’s words to the Ephesian Christians, and us, he communicates three ‘turneds’ by which he outlines a Christ-follower’s testimony. This needful reminder serves believers well in fulfilling the call he asserted just previous to this text. In Ephesians 4:1, he commands Christians to, “live worthy of the calling you have received.” The good news about this command is that we absolutely are able to do this, and we can help each other as we strive to do this together!
First “turned,” we are to be turned away from our old life. That is what we say about coming to Christ for salvation isn’t it? When I baptize someone, I always say, “Buried with him in baptism…”. We are all to have died to our old way of life. Verses 17-19 make this clear: “You should no longer live as the Gentiles live…excluded from the life of God…because of the hardness of their hearts.” All of us fall under this call. As the saying goes: “Know Jesus. Know Change. No Change. No Jesus.”
Second “turned,” we are turned by no one else but Jesus. The Bible says, “assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (4:21). The only kind of turning which effectively rescues us from sin and establishes a right relationship with God is the kind of turning Jesus does. He is “the way, the truth, the life” and no one can have a right relationship with God the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). I can’t turn you. Your parents can’t turn you. Even you can’t turn you! Only Jesus can.
Third “turned,” we are to be turned toward righteousness. Just a moment ago I said that knowing Jesus means knowing change. Transformation. We are enabled to pursue and accomplish righteousness in our lives to the glory of God. Again, the Scriptures say, “put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (4:24) Holiness is not an option for a set of “super Christians.” This fact is our calling to something. Having been turned away from sin, we MUST be turned to live righteously. Because we must, our Lord promises that the Holy Spirit will enable us to accomplish our calling. So, as we step up to the plate, we know that we have the Resource for completing the mission.
I pray, challenging all of us, that we live our lives heeding this call and trusting our Lord. We are turned, turned, turned…Turned by the Lord Jesus, turned away from walking in darkness, and turned toward faithfully following him in the light.