“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, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:17–19, NASB95)
Living as if God does not exist opens the door for living in any way an individual might choose to live. Because to live otherwise recognizes in some way that there is a standard and if there is a standard there must be some form of standard giver. Ravi Zacharias, a well-known and highly regarded apologist (or one who makes reasoned arguments) has answered thousands of questions and engaged in hundreds of forums and debates. He is quoted responding (on more than one occasion and in various formats) to the common objection, “There cannot be a God, because there is too much evil in this world.” “Here's the problem with that objection. When you say there's too much evil in this world you assume there's good. When you assume there's good, you assume there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that's Who you're trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there's no moral Law Giver, there's no moral law. If there's no moral law, there's no good. If there's no good, there's no evil. —Ravi Zacharias
We don’t have to look hard to see how this type of godless living has worked its ways into the very thread of our culture. In fact, its fingers are turning into fists and are forcing their ways and their views upon us. Paul continues writing to the Ephesians believers next, after having told them to grow in Christ and His truth, to exhort them or warm them not to slip back into old practices. We are no longer slaves to sin, and we are not to live as if we are. We are no longer children of the devil and we have no obligation to listen to his voice. We are no longer lost in our trespasses and sins, but we have been set free from them in Christ, and this is how we are now supposed to live. These are not just Paul’s words, this is the word of Christ spoken through Paul and of which he is in full agreement. For anyone to take the Bible and scale things based upon who said them is to deny the inspired or God-breathed nature of His Word. The Bible is not a collection of writings by men who thought God had a good thing going and who wanted to expand on His thing by sharing their own thoughts. Paul himself wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed….” (NIV) Peter wrote, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:21, NASB95)
As believers we are to embrace the word of God and hide it in our hearts. It is to be, as we read in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NASB95) To live in any other way is to live in conflict with our identity in Christ. The reality is, however, that we all live this way at times, and God’s Word is full of instruction leading to correct thinking and living. We don’t need to live in guilt because the blood of Christ has cleansed us from all of our sins. What we need to do is own up to it, admit it to God, and commit to living according to His ways in the future. And when we stumble again we do the same thing. Recognizing this pattern though is not an excuse to go on sinning, but a reminder of the great love of God shown to us and an encouragement for us to return that love through lives fully given to Him in worship, obedience and service.
As for the world, they are going to do what the world does. Here Paul speaks to their great delusion which is found in the hardness of their own hearts. We read that they walk in the futility of their minds. Futile means without benefit or vain. In the end, all that they chase after will be burned up and prove just how worthless it is. Their grandiose ideas and theories will crumble in the face of God’s unchanging truth.
And then as they walk this way they will enter deeper and deeper into their own darkness, a darkness which we read in 2 Corinthians that the devil is whole heartedly behind. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4, NASB95) They prove just how far they are from God by the ignorance that spews from their own mouths. And according to the hardness of their hearts they have become callous to that which God calls true, right, and honorable. They exchange the things of God for a thick-skinned striving after pleasure and impurity with their own best being the end goal.
I’m sure we met lots of what we would call “good people” in the world who seem to do good things, but the reality is that all of their goodness from our perspective won’t save them. All of us have sinned and all of us have fallen short of God’s glory. God’s only means to salvation is to receive His Son who was sent as light and life into the world.
Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:16–25, NASB95)
The contrast is pretty clear. Paul will lay out for us a plan for how to walk appropriately in the next verses of chapter 4. Read ahead in Ephesians 4:20-24.