17 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, 18being 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; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share withone who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:-17-32
Well first off, it is to be immersed in empty things. Have you taken inventory of your pursuits and the time spent engaged in them. Thoreau said we have “improved means to unimproved ends.” Are they for some higher purpose? Are they occupying the part of your mind that should be reserved for God? Instead of dwelling in the light, as you should (Eph. 5:7-8), are you over in some dark corner conducting covert affairs? Or worse, have you graduated to the point where what is done in darkness is now flaunted in the sunshine?
While you should be separated for a “life of God”, have you grown alienated, estranged from him? If you let it run too far, what started out as a slight veering off the path becomes a rocky detour. What were a few rough patches are now full blown calluses. The bone has calcified. The concrete has set up. In this state, you tolerate all kinds of activities (sensuality, impurities, greed, etc.) that are contrary to what Christ has taught you by his spirit, his word and his own life (more caught than taught–presumes a relationship with him).
Then the question is asked by others: Is this man a Christian? And in your heart of hearts: Am Isaved? The outside world is confused, receiving mixed messages. Once the lines are blurred enough, you are accepted as one of their own. In your heart, you’ve lost the assurance of salvation, because you are disobedient, and your failures cloud the clear promises of God that you are his, and that he is present within you.
You need to be renewed again. You need to shed that “old corrupted self” and pursue righteousness, holiness and truth. This restoration process starts in the mind (Rom. 12.2) and is overseen by the Spirit of God. First, he rips up the foundation of lies that have been laid in justification of your errant behavior. This can be any kind of aberrant deed, however nuanced. He replaces the lies with truth. This is practically done by confession, first to God, and if necessary, to your “neighbor.”
Also concerning the tongue is unwholesome language of any kind, i.e. the uttering of anything that does not build up the hearer. The quickest way to obscure your testimony is to lace your words with profanity. When Peter scoffed at the servant girl in the courtyard, he swore. As a rule of thumb, zero profanity is best for a Spirit-filled Christian, even those words used to “make a point.” “Pardon my French” does not relieve you from the damage done by tossing out a profane word for “emphasis.” On this matter, it is really best to ask yourself, “what would Jesus say?” If you love Jesus, but curse like a sailor, what message is being sent out into your world? Instead bolster one another with encouraging words. Express yourself with intelligent words.
Next goes anger, but not the rage you’re thinking of, but simmering irritation. When you don’t get your way, a Spirit-filled man activates the Christian graces of empathy and forbearance. But if you are off the path, you’ll see these situations as attacks on your will, and you’ll plot a way to act out. You harbor grudges and act unbecoming. You can become bitter and vindictive; downright mean. The word “slander” used in v. 31 indicates that all this malice is hard to contain, and it will work itself out through the mouth, often with sarcasm. All this debris must be cleaned out and replaced by righteousness.
One of the Spirit’s cures to right your course is simply to move you to begin again to serve and share with others. The farther you stray, the more inclined you are to steal, that is, to connive and cheat to get your way, or to withhold that which is due, even to the point of withholding praise or well wishes. As in everything spiritual, this may be very subtle, e.g. just slightly off the mark, but nonetheless, wrong.
You can also rob God, redirecting that which is his to your own pursuits. This can be money, but it can also involve precious time or God-given talent. The Spirit directs us to be constructive and productive, so that our fruit will be bountiful and benefit others. When we are walking as the Gentiles do, there is little sincere thought for others. We are self-consumed. A bona fide Spirit-filled Christian is kind, tender, long-suffering and forgiving.
You need to get back on the beaten path! A relationship with Christ is a stroll with him through life. An ongoing conversation on the wise thing to do. Minute by minute consultation on doing the right thing. Don’t be in the dark any longer!