I have preached it hundreds of times and I will continue to push it: The Church is not about conformity but transformation. We preach too many sermons that resemble self-help, self-empowerment seminars. Christianity is not about positive thinking. It is not even about possibility thinking. It is not about conforming to a certain set of principles and rules. It is a difficult thing for some people because Christianity is about the transforming love of God forming us into the image of the Son. It is about a force other than self-will re-birthing us into something new.
Wherever we find lists of what we are not to be and what we are to be as followers of Jesus we need to see them as road signs. It is reminding us that if we see these things in our lives that we know something is wrong in our relationship with Jesus. For instance, we read this in Ephesians 5:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (v. 3)
I appreciate how Paul states this so simply: Because these are improper for God's holy people. If you find these things in your life there is a problem in the relationship. The power of God's transformation has been blocked and we have allowed sin to take the throne again. Without Jesus we have no power of our own to refuse the authority of these things over us, but with Jesus we have been freed from such authority and have the power to reject such things from our life. Emphasis here on the authority of Jesus.
You can try to stop sinning all you want, you can approach it from will power, and self-determination, but the only thing that prevents sin is when we allow the character of Jesus to assume the throne of our being. As the character of Jesus replaces our character, as the power of the Spirit permeates our every fibre, as the love of God becomes the motivation of everything we do, things change:
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (v. 4)
What once belonged to our sin nature is evicted in favour of the character of Jesus. Thanksgiving should be the theme of everyday and it is, when we allow Jesus to be our everything. If we hold anything back we are giving a foothold for our old nature to get back in. Our part in the transformation is to permit it to happen, to surrender every day to God's will, to daily die to ourself, seeking the control of the Spirit. Seriously, the only thing that should matter to us every day is Jesus and our obedience to him.
We live in an age where people excuse away what is "improper" for God's "holy" people. We see double-mindedness, hearts that are divided, and a lot of carnal attitudes. Sexual immorality is accepted in the Church under the pressure of society. Let's be clear on this, sex outside of marriage is not acceptable among God's holy people, neither is homosexuality nor anything else that is birthed from the self-centeredness of sin. People can lie to themselves all they want, they can harden their hearts to the conviction of the Spirit but the sign posts are there for a reason. If you have any part in these things you have no part in Jesus.
The fact remains, when we live a surrendered life to the glory of Jesus the transformation process continues. We are a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come. We have thrown off the old garment and have been clothed in the new. We no longer think and act like those who belong to the darkness but instead are now possessed by the mind of Christ. We need to remember this because as we work with the Father in the rescue of the lost, the power of sin continues to call to us, selfish attitudes creep in, sin threatens to overwhelm. We must, at all times, keep our eyes on Jesus and surrender ourselves daily to his authority and power. We do not control ourselves but instead allow the Spirit of God to control us. We are the holy children of God, given to the transforming power of God, not the conformity of man.