Rotting Lives

rottingapple2.jpg We rationalize that some of those in sin will be accepted by God for their good lives. We do so because we have loved ones who fall within these parameters and we cannot associate them with being vile, enemies of God (Romans 5:10). While these individuals may exhibit many Christian qualities, we must not delude them and ourselves into thinking this will be sufficient. The divide between the lost and the saved is enormous.
In Ephesians 4:22 we read, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” The spiritual garments of the sinner are corrupt, rotting, filthy, and decaying. The imagery is of a carcass slowly returning to the earth with all of its repulsive sights and sounds.
“There is nothing attractive about a decaying carcass; it fills us with horror and disgust. Its corruption is most offensive. Nobody wants to share life with a corpse.”/1 At age ten, the legendary singer Billie Holiday was forced to spend an entire night in a room with a dead body. Very few would ever do so by choice. We are justifiably frightened by corpses and avoid them as best we can.
The sinner is regarded as being dead (Ephesians 2:1). Christ tells his disciples that while we must circulate and live among the dead, we must be careful to remain sanctified from them (John 17:11-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:17-19). Evangelism requires that we reach out to the dead so we can bring them to spiritual life, but we cannot let them change us (Matthew 28:18-20). God clearly establishes the physical health risks of touching dead bodies (Leviticus 11:24; Numbers 19:11-13). The New Testament is filled with the dangers of being spiritually corrupted by idols, false teachers, and evil companions (Ephesians 6:10-13).
Corrupt clothes are portrayed as being so decrepit that they are falling off of the body. An episode of “Law and Order” portrays a case where an intelligent but mentally ill homeless man witnesses a murder. He is taken, cleaned, fitted with clean clothes and medicated so he can testify. When the episode ends, he sheds his new clothes and medication and returns to his tattered garments and his home in his cardboard box.
The vileness of being robed in rotten garments is exemplified by the imagery of returning to this life as being like a “dog returning to his vomit” (2 Peter 2:22).
God’s remedy is to put off these garments and be transformed by the new birth (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). Paul wrote, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing and regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
We put on our new garments and are clean again. Remaining clean requires constant attention and staying connected to God. God’s grace allows us to be in his body, but we must do all that it takes to remain in him (Ephesians 2:8-9; Ephesians 1:22-23; Revelation 2:10; John 15:1-8).
In Deuteronomy 8:4, we find that as long as Israel walked with God in the wilderness for 40 years, their clothes never wore out. If we will walk in the light as he is in the light, our spiritual garments will never grow old nor decay. They will be renewed daily as we commune with God with a contrite heart and humble service (James 4:10).
1/ John Phillips, Exploring Ephesians and Philippians (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), 130.

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