The Pagan Life
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
In the last three chapters of the epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul applies the doctrines he taught in the first three chapters. Doctrine and duty, faith and life-that is the order. Ephesians 4:1 speaks of the unity of the church in view of what Christ has done on the cross. He destroyed all enmity between man and man, and man and God; therefore, the church is united. So we are asked, not to attain unity, but to maintain what has already been attained by the work of the triune God.
Beginning with verse 17 of chapter 4, Paul exhorts us to live a life of purity, and beginning in verse 20 he gives more insight into how to live the Christian life. But first, in verses 17 through 19, he gives us God's view of the pagan life, the life of every person outside of Jesus Christ. According to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, there is no more profound analysis of the unregenerate life than that which is found in these verses. Here we see the biblical psychology of every unbeliever. Such a person is a sinner, one who can only practice immorality because of the ungodliness of his mind and heart.
Application of Doctrine
Paul begins in verse 17: "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord. . . ." In the Greek it is, "Therefore I tell you this and testify in the Lord." Why does Paul use the word "therefore"? He is now applying the doctrines which he outlined in the first three chapters. "Therefore," then, means in view of God's great mercy and salvation. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. He has forgiven us our sins and adopted us as his sons. He sent someone to preach the gospel to us, we believed it and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. And we are told there is coming a day when God will unite all things under the headship of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in history and destroyed all enmities in our behalf. Christ is our peace, having reconciled us to God and our fellow man by his atonement. God raised him from the dead and exalted him to the right hand of God the Father, where he is seated as the reigning and ruling Lord. This Christ has received all authority over all things and all things are put under his feet. He is given as the Head of the church, to direct us, govern us, provide for us, protect us, and keep us. These are some of the doctrines Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1-3.
Not only that, Paul also taught that the Holy Spirit has made us alive with Christ, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places. We belong to both heaven and earth. And because we are seated with Christ, we are co-rulers with him. Because we are in Christ, God has made us who were Gentiles by birth fellow citizens, members of the body of Christ, on equal terms with the elect Israel.
In view of all this, we must then live lives of unity and purity. That is the idea of application. Paul makes this exhortation as an apostle: "So I tell you this and testify in the Lord," that is, by the authority given him by the Lord. He is not saying "I had a dream" or "I had a vision," but "I am speaking to you as the apostle of Christ. The idea here is that we must pay special attention because here Paul is giving us the infallible revelation of God. When an apostle speaks, Jesus Christ himself speaks, and we must respond to that speech in utter faith and obedience.
Who is Paul addressing? In verse 1 of chapter 1 we are told this letter was written to the saints in Ephesus. We are saints, every one of us, having been separated from the world to God. We are holy, and so we must live a holy life, to the praise of his glorious grace, as we are told in chapter 1, verses 6, 12, and 14. Though we have residual sin in our being, it no longer rules over us; rather, Jesus Christ reigns in us by the Holy Spirit, our resident Boss. That is why we are exhorted elsewhere not to grieve the Holy Spirit by our sin. And it is through the power of the Holy Spirit in us that we are able to live an obedient life. We are a new creation, we are told in Ephesians 2:10, 15, and 4:24, with a new nature and new power from the Holy Spirit to obey God and glorify him. If we are truly converted, all this is true of us.
No Longer Living as a Pagan
Look, then, at verse 17 of chapter 4: "So I tell you and insist on it in the Lord that you must no longer. . ." The Greek word is míªketi. What does that word "no longer" mean? Does it mean rarely or infrequently? No! It means never again. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are not to behave any longer like those without Christ. True, we must live among pagans in this world, but as the light of the world, we are to shine as lights among them for their benefit, that they may glorify our heavenly Father.
"No longer" means we no longer follow our old patterns of living. Paul uses the same term in 4:28: "He who has been stealing must steal no longer." If we have been truly converted and made new in our being, then the one who steals should no longer steal. It is not that you should steal infrequently or rarely. No longer! If you were a drunkard, you should never be a drunkard again. If you were a liar, you should forsake lying. If you were a fornicator, you should not fornicate again. Why this drastic turnaround? Because we have been made new in Christ. And not only should we no longer steal, but we must also obey the commandments that tell us to work six days, and we should give to those who are in need. That is the type of transformation the Lord Jesus Christ brings about in our lives. No longer do we lie; rather, we tell the truth, for the edification of the body of Christ.
Other scriptures speak about this idea of no longer continuing in sin. Romans 6:6 tells us, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." Second Corinthians 5:15 says, "And [Jesus Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." The pagan, the unbeliever, lives only to please himself and for his own glory.
We find further clarification of this idea of "no longer" in 1 Peter 4. These exhortations may seem shocking to a modern person, but to one who is born of God, they are glorious explanations of how God expects us to live. First Peter 4:1-2 says, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he [no longer lives] the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." A Christian is always seeking the will of God so that he may do it.
Peter continues, "As a result, he does not live the rest of his life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do, living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry" (vv. 2-3). Praise God! He delivered us from all the filth and darkness and moral chaos we were in by nature, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones tells us: "If my Christian living is not quite inevitable to me, if I am always fighting against it and struggling and trying to get out of it, and wondering why it is so hard and narrow, if I find myself rather envying the people who are still back in the world, there is something radically wrong with my Christian life" (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984], 20). Holy living is natural to a holy people. Unholiness is natural to ungodly people.
Antinomians had infiltrated the church of Ephesus, teaching the philosophy of both/and and encouraging the people to continue living their sinful, Gentile lives. So in Ephesians 5:6 Paul writes: "Let no one deceive you. . . ." This is a problem we face also. People want us to preach a both/and philosophy. Such people came to the Ephesian believers and said, "You say you are Christians? That is all right. But let's continue to live the old way." But what does Paul say? "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes upon those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them."
Our behavior should be compatible with our new belief system-new beings, new beliefs, new behavior. We must daily live for the glory of God alone. The word used is "walk." We should walk, no longer in the old way, but in the new way, in God's way. "Walk" means to live step-by-step, making every decision for the glory of God. We need only to ask one question: Is this the will of God?
So Paul says we "must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking." The Gentile Ephesian believers lived in sin before, as we read in chapter 2: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath" (vv. 1-3). The translators used the word "live" there, but "walk" is better, as we said, for it conveys this idea of a step-by-step, moment-by-moment life. This is how the Ephesians lived, but now they are to walk differently. So Paul says in verse 10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works."
That is why we must study the Bible and walk in the way it prescribes, not in the way of human psychology or philosophy or self-interest. Thus, if abortion is murder, then you should not abort your child. There is no argument. You do not have to go to psychologists to find out what they think. If God says something is sin, it is sin, and I will take a stand against it. This means your family may turn against you. If so, you have to trust in God. Our business is to glorify God, and we must do what God wants us to do, irrespective of the consequences.
How, then, should we walk? We must walk in obedience to God (2:10). We must walk in love (5:2). We must walk in the light (5:8). We must walk in wisdom (5:15).
Characteristics of Pagans
What is wrong with the life of a pagan? After all, the term "pagan" may include many of our friends, relatives, and neighbors, for every person outside of Christ is a pagan. In this passage, we find seven characteristics that separate pagans from believers.
1. Pagans Are Demonized
The first thing we must note about pagans is that they are demonized. I hope you do not misunderstand me: I am not saying that our pagan friends and relatives are all foaming at the mouth and walking around naked. Not all demonized people do such things, although some do. Many pagans write books, make movies, and accomplish great things in the world. Yet because they are still outside of Christ, they are slaves of Satan; thus, they can only do exactly what the devil wants them to do.
In Ephesians 2:1 Paul writes, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world." Pagans are very careful to conform to this world-its fashion, philosophies, and ideas. They do so as slaves, for they have no freedom to do anything different. Why do people act and dress in a certain way? Because the world says that is the way to go. They see it on television or in the society around them, and so that is the way to behave. Such people are weak and powerless. They are always trying to conform to the ways and the philosophies of the world. How often do we see pagan children putting pressure on their parents to let them conform to the worldly ideals with which they are surrounded!
As pagans we "followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air." But who is the ruler of the kingdom of air? Satan. He is the authority of the air, "the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Just as Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit, pagans are also filled with a spirit, but it is the evil spirit. They are controlled by the devil, the prince of the power of the air, and obey him completely. As slaves of the devil, they cannot negotiate with their master; they are his obedient servants, always doing his will and the will of his emissaries.
We find this idea of the devil's control of pagans not only in Ephesians 2:2, but also in 2 Corinthians 4:4: "The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." It is serious, deliberate, and purposeful blinding of the mind of the unbeliever. You may say, "My mother doesn't understand," or "My father doesn't understand," or "My children don't understand," but let me tell you why they don't understand: they are demonized. They may be professors in schools and universities and even seminaries. It doesn't mean anything. Second Corinthians 4:4 tells us, "The god of this age," that is, the devil, "has blinded the minds of unbelievers. . . ." This is the psychology of pagans. The problem is in their head-in their thinking, in their understanding, in their perception of reality. They are blinded so that they will never see reality correctly. It does not matter how many books they write; they can never interpret reality correctly because of the problem in their head.
In 1 John 5:19 John tells us, "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." As we said, these people are spirit-filled, but it is not the Holy Spirit. They are demon-controlled, slaves to Satan. They are blind in their understanding.
Let me give you an illustration of this problem: A former government official recently stated that God is more dangerous than terrorists. This man is worried about the Bible-believing people in this country, so he said their God is more dangerous than the terrorists. Don't you think he is demonized? It is pure enmity toward the true and living God. This man does not foam at the mouth or walk naked among the tombs. But for him, the triune God of the Christians is the number one enemy that everyone must oppose. This is due to the demonization Paul is describing.
2. Pagans Are Dead
Second, the Bible says pagans are dead: "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God" (4:18). "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins" (2:1). Because of their transgressions and sins, they are cut off from God, in whom alone is life. Jesus Christ said, "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3), and, "I [have] come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, KJV).
Pagans have no knowledge of God and do not love him. Because of their trespasses and sins, they are dead toward God. Yet these ungodly people are alive in sin and very active in wickedness, like worms that thrive in the sewer. They revel in immorality. But they are utterly without understanding of the true God and his ways. Unbelievers are like the walking dead.
3. Pagans Are Darkened
In verse 18 we are told: "They are darkened in their understanding," dianoia. That is where our problem is. Romans 1:18-32 teaches the same thing and reveals how quickly those who are darkened in their understanding will spiral downward to hell.
God has revealed himself to us both in creation and human conscience. So Romans 1:18-20 tells us, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." Look at the order. First is godlessness, then is wickedness. Don't ever believe that people know nothing about God. In one sense, they do know him, but they suppress that truth by their wickedness and refuse to honor him, worship him, and order their lives according to his word. In fact, they exchange the truth they have about God for a lie. Then we are told, "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them." That is why no one can stand on the last day before God and say, "I didn't know you." All are without excuse. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (vv. 18-20). What happens to such people? Verse 21 tells us "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
The Greeks prided themselves in their intellect. Their minds, they said, drew them upward while their flesh pulled them downward. They prided themselves in being philosophers, artists, scientists who wrote literature. But the truth is, they willfully closed their eyes to the knowledge of the true God and worshiped idols. Boasting about their knowledge and enlightenment, they called everybody else barbarians. But God calls them fools, darkened in their understanding.
Friends, believe this truth! Don't be impressed by the knowledge of the world. These Ephesian pagans were in a state of darkness; the use of a perfect passive participle in the Greek tells us that. They saw nothing correctly. This is the problem of all pagans. They have blinders on, or colored glasses, and can see nothing correctly, especially in dealing with eternal issues, things of purpose and meaning. They live in thick fog. They are surrounded by reality, but they cannot see it because of the fog. They are like those who deliberately live in caves where light did not penetrate. In Ephesians 5:8 Paul says, "For you were once darkness. . . ." He is speaking about moral, spiritual darkness. They never understand anything correctly. He continues, "but now you are light in the Lord." What a marvelous work of redemption, transformation, and new creation!
Colossians 1:13 tells us, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." That is what salvation is all about. God translates us from the dominion of darkness, death, misery, and hopelessness and places us in the kingdom of his dear Son-the kingdom of light, life, hope, joy, meaning, and purpose.
1 Peter 2:9 tells us, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light," and 1 John 2:9 and 11 says, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. . . But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him." John 3:19 says they loved darkness: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." Light came in the person of Jesus Christ, but pagans love darkness more than the light. Second Thessalonians 2:9-12 says they delight in, revel in, and glory in wickedness: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness."
4. Pagans Are Ignorant
Not only are pagans demonized, dead, and darkened, but they are also ignorant. Verse 18: "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them." Where is this ignorance? In them. This is not some superficial ignorance that can be corrected by education. This ignorance is deep-seated in the very constitution of a pagan. (PGM) It is a heart problem.
But the question is, of what are they ignorant? As we said, in one sense, they are ignorant of everything, as far as truth is concerned, but this ignorance is ignorance especially and particularly of the true God-his glory, his majesty, his eternity, his holiness, his justice, his everlasting power, his judgment, his infinity, his independence, his omniscience, his omnipresence, his wrath, his hell, and his heaven.
Now, when we look at unbelievers, we notice that they pride themselves in their knowledge and love the adulation that comes to them from others. "My professor is so great," their students will say. Oh, no. Such people are walking death. They stink, and yet to all other walking deads, they are great. Such people say Christians who believe in the Bible are stupid, superstitious, and dangerous.
There are many other scriptures that tell us about this ignorance of pagans: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4); "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe . . . . But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. . . .Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord'" (1 Corinthians 1: 21, 27, 31); "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14:); "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile'" (1 Corinthians 3:19-20). Pagans may claim to be brilliant and all-knowing. But what does God call them? Ignorant.
5. Pagans Are Hardened
Not only that, in verse 18 we read that pagans are hardened. "Due to the hardening of their hearts. . ." That is the final reason for the twistedness of the minds of unbelievers: they are hardened in their heart. The Greek word is porosis. As we said, their problem is deep-seated; it is in their heart, their mind, and their understanding. This is why this is the divine psychology, God's revelation, of the unbeliever's state of mind. Their mind, will, and affections are hardened. The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
We are told here the hearts of pagans are like stones, for the word porosis is the name of a type of marble. We can also use this word for the calluses of one's feet. Especially in the developing world, where people walk without shoes, the skin on the bottom of their feet is so thick that if you cut it with a knife, they will not feel any pain. That is the word Paul uses to describe the heart of a pagan. They are like calluses on the feet that have become completely insensitive and need to be cut off, or like the bony formations on joints. In 1Timothy 4:2 Paul says the consciences of pagans are cauterized, seared. They are willfully obtuse and feel nothing. Such people suffer from the arthritis of the heart and mind.
This hardness can only be blamed on the pagans themselves, as we read in the book of Hebrews, where the writer repeats a quote from Psalm 95: " So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert" (3:7, 8); "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. . ." (3:15); "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. . ." (4:15). People can attend church for many years, yet never hear anything. All that time, they will be merely hardening their hearts. In fact, their religion becomes increasingly more external and apathetic.
This is a serious issue. When the word of God is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit is speaking; yet, people can sit in their seats and feel nothing. They are apathetic because of their own arrogance and externalism, and the misconception that the word being preached is for someone else. God gives grace to the humble, but the wicked are destroyed in their pride. That is what happens when people hear the word of God but are not humble. You see, God does not have to speak to us at all, for we are sinners who deserve only punishment. God has no obligation to speak to us about grace. But if he does, what a blessing it is! It is the word of life coming to us, telling us God loves us. He who is our peace made peace on the cross; now he comes and preaches peace to those who are far away and those who are near. How great is the mercy of God!
What does it mean to harden our heart? In Hebrews 3:12 we read, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful and unbelieving heart." In other words, people who came to church may have committed sin, but they do not want to repent of it. They like their sin and will not let it go. This means they are hardening their hearts. When the word is preached, we are to add faith to it, so that we may receive rest, peace, salvation, deliverance, and healing. When we don't believe, we are hardening our hearts.
"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful and unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Dr. Lloyd-Jones said that every time we sin and disobey, we are hardening our hearts.
We find this word porosis, used in Mark 3:5: "[Jesus] looked around at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts." Here we see Jesus Christ in the midst of his people, ready to save, ready to heal, ready to forgive. But they were arrogant and refused to believe in him, pray to him, and trust in him.
In Ezekiel 36 God says, "I will give you a new heart. . . ." Our problem is that our heart is hard and insensitive. Past feeling, it cannot respond to God. But notice, God says, "I will give you a new heart." Not only that, he says he will "put a new spirit in you," speaking of the Holy Spirit. Then he says "I will remove from you your heart of stone." Only God can do such a heart transplant, taking our the stony heart and putting in its place a new heart, a heart of flesh, a heart that responds and feels, a heart that humbles and repents, a heart that receives the word of God, a heart that understands. It says, "I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and will move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (vv. 26-27).
Jeremiah puts it slightly differently: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33). And when God does this, we will naturally love God. It will be our very nature to respond to God, to believe God, to look to God, to pray to God, to trust God. We will delight in the doing of his will.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones illustrates this point about a hard heart, darkened understanding, and empty mind by this illustration. There was a prime minister of England by name William Pitt the Younger, who was a nominal Christian, a member of the Church of England. Nominal Christian means he was a pagan. He had nothing to do with Christianity. Pitt was a decent, nice, brilliant man and a great prime minister, but he was also an unregenerate, unbelieving pagan. He had a friend named William Wilberforce, who was the champion of the anti-slavery movement. Wilberforce was a member of Parliament and a converted, serious Christian who reveled in the word of God
Mr. Wilberforce invited his friend, Mr. Pitt, to come and listen to an evangelical preacher, Richard Cecil. At first, Pitt gave all kinds of excuses, but finally he agreed to go on a Sunday morning. Richard Cecil preached the gospel powerfully that morning and people rejoiced greatly. Wilberforce was thrilled as he listened to Cecil's glorious declaration of the gospel. Then he looked at Pitt, who was having a terrible time. And as they left the service, Mr. Pitt said to his friend, "William, I don't have the slightest idea what this man was talking about." This is hardening of the heart. This is darkened understanding. This is empty mind. It is like showing a beautiful sunset to a blind person.
How many of us have experienced this! We speak to people about Jesus Christ, and they are dead, stony, hard, unresponsive, and past feeling.
6. God Will Judge Pagans
God judges such people. In Ephesians 4:19 we read: "Having lost all feeling, they have given themselves over to sensuality, to the working of every kind of uncleanness," especially referring to sexual immorality, "to the continual lust for more." That is divine judgment. Because they are hardened in their heart, they are past feeling. This means two things: first, that they have no feeling for God or spiritual things. Such people do not need sleeping pills; if one starts telling them about Jesus Christ, they will go to sleep immediately! Second, they are shameless, beyond shame or regret. The Bible says such people cannot blush; in fact, they parade their sin.
Therefore God will punish these pagans. Someone said, "The punishment for sin is sin." We see this illustrated in Romans 1:24, 26, and 28: " Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. . . . Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. . . . Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done."
Paul says, "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts." The people were giving themselves over to aselgeia, sensuality, to practice every form of uncleanness with a continuing lust for more. Not only does God abandon people to sin, but here we read that they also give themselves over to sensuality, to the practice of every kind of uncleanness, especially sexual perversion as the Gentiles practiced in Ephesus in their worship of Artemis. They gave themselves to sensuality, which means public indecency of a shameless kind. They are not in the closet; they are out in the public. They are shameless, stopping at nothing to satisfy their foul desire. They delight in wickedness. They love darkness. They are morally weak people who have no self-control; therefore they live reckless lives and destroy themselves. It is how President Clinton acted in the Oval Office. It is called recklessness, total licentiousness with no moral restraint, unbridled self-indulgence. They throw away all standards of morality. They have depraved minds and live what they believe. It is the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a divine judgment. God has abandoned people so that they are addicted to filth, yet can be never satisfied. The more they sin, the more they want to sin. They are greedy for sin.
7. The Emptiness of the Pagan Life
What is the final characteristic of the pagan life? It is an empty, futile life. In Ephesians 4:17 Paul writes, "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking." These people live in the emptiness of their mind; it is a waste. They live aimless, purposeless unfulfilled lives.
We are created to know God, worship God, and fellowship with God. But pagans worship the created things. That is what futility means. They fail in this purpose of worshiping and serving God. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, but these people have no joy. They are empty, miserable, and restless. Instead of worshiping God, they worship idols. They worship creation. They worship themselves. Their life is a bubble that will surely burst. That is what futility means. The Hindenburg burst into flames as it was about to land; that is an analogy of the life of a pagan. Futility means that one never arrives at the destination. It is fruitless, waste, vanity, emptiness. The bubble bursts. The writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity." Life without God is a life of futility. It is a chasing after wind. But such a life is utter failure. Jesus said the Gentiles run after these things, seeking money to buy pleasure. Yet they reject the one who alone can give them everlasting life and pleasure. St. Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee."
You have seen such people. Maybe your own father or mother or uncle or friend is coming to the end of his or her life: empty, hopeless, cursing, about to die and to enter into an eternity of misery. What is the problem? Their heart, their understanding, their mind is darkened and hardened. They are ignorant. They know everything but God. The problem is their hard heart, darkened mind, arrogant mind, that rejected God. They can be in the church for years without any change for the better. So they live an empty life, seeking after the pleasures of sin for a season. Ungodliness produces wickedness. This is the life outside of Christ. This is the pagan life.
But the truth is, God loves sinners. As I said, he loved us and saved us. He made us a new creation. He took the hard heart out of us and gave us a heart of flesh. He put the Holy Spirit within us. He made us children of God. His Spirit dwells in us to guide us in the way of truth and holiness. We were darkness once, but we are now light in the Lord. We were dead, but now we are alive. We were on our way to hell; now we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
In conclusion, let me say:
First, we must pray for a revival. We cannot take the stony heart out and put a heart of flesh in. It is the work of the mighty Holy Spirit of God. We must cry out to God, "O God, pour out your Holy Spirit. May he work among us mightily." Pray for revival, that God may remove the stony heart and give a heart of flesh to give sight to the blind and to give light to those who sit in darkness.
Second, let us pray earnestly for the true conversion of sinners, beginning with our own loved ones and neighbors. Name them in your prayers, and pray for them daily, that they may be saved.
Third, let us faithfully study the word of God so that we may boldly witness to the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. Nobody is going to be saved unless we preach the gospel.
Fourth, if you are outside of Christ and outside of life, hardened in the heart, ignorant of God, darkened in your understanding, living an empty life without purpose, aimless, I urge you to repent of your sins, look up, call upon the name of the Lord to save you now - right now-and he will. He will save you and fill your life with purpose and meaning, flooding your life with light and the knowledge of God. This is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Fifth, if you are a Christian, yet you have been caught up in the snare and trap of sin, like the mouse caught in a trap, let me assure you, you can be delivered even today. If you truly desire deliverance, God will deliver you and help you to enjoy freedom. The scripture said, "Today if you hear his voice. . . harden not your hearts." Seek the Scripture to obey it. Seek the Spirit to guide you and empower you. Seek the help of the church to disciple you. The whole church will give you help and guidance that you may walk in the way of life and freedom.
The pagan life is a life of misery. Yes, pagans will call themselves wise, smart, brilliant, sophisticated, literate. But when you pull back the curtain and look, you see that it is a life of futility, emptiness, and death. If you are hearing the word of God today, I pray that you will harden not your hearts, but humble yourselves, and repent of your sins. Call upon the name of the Lord and he will save you, deliver you, and help you. Our God cannot lie.
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Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
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