The apostle Paul was concerned about the power of lust. In Ephesians 4:11-24 Paul talks about new life in Christ and the essential role that the church plays in the lives of believers as they become more like Christ. In the middle of this section (verse 17) he interjects a strong, emphatic warning that Christians should no longer walk or live like the world. To give an example of being like the world, the Holy Spirit (through Paul) focuses on those who are controlled by lust. The world is dominated by what it wants. Since those wants are evil, deceptive, and at cross purposes with what God wants, then following those wants will lead to hardness of heart, entrapment, and slavery to the desires–the lusts–of the world.
In the verses that follow (20-24), Paul says to put off the way of the world–lust–and to put on the new person that has been created in the likeness of Christ. Let’s look at the content of these verses carefully, because they speak about breaking the lust cycle.
Verse 20 is stunning in its meaning and implication.
But that is not the way you learned Christ!
Paul contrasts “living like the world” with “learning Christ.” Learning Christ may not be familiar language to us. It is perhaps more comfortable to say we are learning about Christ. And certainly that is implied in the verse, but Paul means something more here. In his commentary on Ephesians, Peter O’Brien observes that “the phrase to learn a person appears nowhere else in the Greek Bible.” Paul is reminding the Ephesians that the person of Christ is what they learned, not the deceitful schemes and plans of the world. Paul says the person of Christ is what breaks the power of raging lusts. The Ephesians had learned the ways of the world. The world’s learning is characterized by human cunning, craftiness, and deceitful schemes. Colossians 2:20-23 adds that the world’s learning is even marked by things that appear to be religious–rules and harsh treatment of the body that have the appearance of godliness but lack the power of the Gospel to bring true, lasting change. These religious rules have no power to restrain the indulgences of the flesh.
Learning the person of Christ, of necessity, means learning and following the directives of Christ. But at the core is Christ. He himself, as a person, must be learned and loved for who he is. When the Ephesian church is rebuked in Revelation 2, she is rebuked for leaving her first love. The world has schemes and plans, the church has Christ! He is the one we must learn. How does this work? Let’s start with this scenario.
You find that your 15-year-old has been viewing pornography on the Internet. You react swiftly. You tell him that he may no longer have his computer in his room, that he may not use the car for the next two months, that he will be restricted from seeing his friends, and that the camping trip with the church youth group is off. You tell him that if he is does well with these things for three months, you will consider restoring most of his privileges.
What is missing from this scenario? Give this some careful consideration. Let me know your thoughts.