Have you really repented—turned away from any wrongdoing you are aware of to live your life the way God tells you to? Or are you still living in sin and just kidding yourself about your eternal destiny?
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6)
Action typically follows belief, and it is no different in our relationship with God. “…As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) and “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life [everything important, basically]” (Proverbs 4:23) are foundational concepts for Christians. What we believe is of utmost importance.
This is because while all behavior begins with belief, we act on what we believe to be true. Our mind is a major battlefield because, so to speak, if Satan can deceive us into believing what isn’t true, his job is half done; if he can get us to doubt what is true, the rest is finished. To persevere to the end, we must really know what God says, and believe it—not just mentally acknowledge it, but be so convinced that we would sacrifice everything rather than turn away from it. This is because that’s what we actually are doing in this life—we’re basing our future, our eternal destinies, completely on what we believe, one way or the other. Yet this is a much harder bill to fill than we sometimes realize.
We are inundated with all kind of ideas, and we rarely pay much attention to them. Some things catch our attention, but really, how often do we make a change in the way we live? Probably not often, if we’re honest. Yet today’s verse is serious business, and it merits an honest evaluation.
God’s wrath is coming on people who engage in certain behaviors. Because this verse says it’s coming on the “sons of disobedience” we might tend to gloss over it, imagining that this isn’t something we need to pay particular attention to, because we clearly aren’t the “sons of disobedience.” But aren’t we, if we are engaging in what it is that God identifies? Are we sure? Second Corinthians 13:5a warns, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” So what is it that God’s wrath is coming on the sons of disobedience for?
Ephesians 5:5 tells us that God’s wrath is coming on the sons of disobedience for three things—for being (1) a fornicator, (2) an unclean person, and/or (3) a covetous man, who is identified as an idolater. At this point, many of us will again heave a mental sigh of relief and keep reading because we aren’t engaged in illicit relations or anything identifiably dirty, or sitting around wanting our neighbor’s stuff. But aren’t we? Are we sure?
The world we now live in has become so much more like the days of Noah or Lot that it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify whether we are sinning or not, simply by relying on what others around us are doing. That had never been a good monitor of righteousness to begin with. The point is that God’s standards aren’t the standards of the people around us; His are standards of holiness, far above anything else. Well, there is no way I can ever live up to that standard of perfection, you might argue. Yes, but God still mandates that His people consciously avoid anything He brings to our attention we recognize as sin. So let’s take a look at this again.
Are you a fornicator? Even though you might not have physically had intimate relations with anyone outside of marriage, have you mentally? Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28) Our heart matters—remember “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life?”—and just because your body hasn’t done wrong doesn’t mean you haven’t.
What about uncleanness? Are you guilty of that? Again take your thought life into consideration, not just your physical actions. What do you think about? What do you find gratification in? Are you into anything that your conscience condemns you for? I John 3:20 says, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”
Covetousness is perhaps more difficult to spot, because the entire advertising industry works hard to create desire in us, to the point where it becomes difficult to recognize what we’re doing. I may not be sitting around staring at my neighbor’s car wishing it were mine, but do I eye the car on the commercials and think how nice I would look driving it? More to the point, is there anything in my life that I desire more—that preoccupies my heart and mind more—than God’s kingdom and His righteousness in me? Now that’s a tall order, and I suspect not many pass this test. Yet it is a test God has placed before us, and He doesn’t qualify it by stipulating it only for those who were born before the twentieth or twenty-first centuries! Moreover, the fact that not many will pass it should not concern us; it is supported by Jesus’ own comment, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14)
So, are you one of the sons of disobedience? Have you failed to genuinely repent—to turn away from all sin? Is God’s wrath coming upon you because of something in your life that you haven’t made right? Matthew 3:8 tells us, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Or can you honestly say that, out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us and to the best of your understanding, you are following Christ? Don’t ignore this—your eternal destiny depends on it!
Help us to truly be Yours—help us love You “with all…[our] heart, with all… [our] soul, with all…[our] mind, and with all…[our] strength.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.