Conversion and continuous renewal

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:17, 22-24 (NIV)

Read: Ephesians 4:17-32

Consider:  In today’s reading Paul is writing to the believers in Ephesus, yet he tells them that they are to: ‘… no longer live as the Gentiles do …’.  At first glance this might seem to be unnecessary, but the converts in Ephesus (in present day Turkey) would, have been mostly non-Jews (Gentiles).  So he was really warning them that they should no longer live as they had done before accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord.

Paul speaks of Gentiles in this way: Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed (Ephesians 4:19).  Paul tells us that they have ‘lost all sensitivity’ (v19) and this is because of the ‘hardening of their hearts’ (v18).  When Jesus was asked by the disciples why he spoke to the crowd in parables, he replied (quoting from Isaiah 6:9,10) when he says: This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them (Matthew 13:13-15).  So when Paul and others speak of people being hard-hearted, we can understand how their hearts have become ‘calloused’ and ‘insensitive’ to the truth.

There are many things that may need to change when a person commits their life to Christ.  Elsewhere the Apostle Paul tells us: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17). The phrase ‘… the new creation has come …’ could also be rendered as ‘… that person is a new creation’.  It is true that when a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour, an inward (often dramatic) change occurs in that person.  Notice that in today’s reading he encourages the believers in Ephesus to: ‘… be made new in the attitude of your minds (Ephesians 4:23).   Paul speaks of ‘put off’ the old self (4:22) and ‘put on’ the new self (4:24), both of which take place at conversion.  While the NIV renders Ephesians 4:23 as: ‘… to be made new in the attitude of your minds’, the ESV renders it as: ‘… and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’.  The ‘made new’ or ‘renewed’ mentioned here refer to a continuous, ongoing process that takes place throughout a believer’s life.

The result of becoming a Christian is that we have to evaluate how we previously lived and what needs to change.  Some things will be immediately apparent; for example Paul says: ‘Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer …’ (4:28). However, he mentions many other things that are incompatible with Christian living and need to change, but only through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life:

  • no lying, but speaking the truth (4:25);
  • controlling anger (4:26);
  • avoiding unwholesome talk (4:29);
  • getting rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice (4:31).

Paul does not dwell on the negatives, but also encourages the believers to display positive attributes in their lives.  He rounds off this section of his letter saying: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). 

So why should you and I put off the old self and put on the new self and why should we seek to be renewed in the spirit of our minds? Paul tells us that it is because in the new self we are ‘…created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4:24).  This is to be our motivation: to become more Godlike in all our attitudes and actions.

Pray:  Father, we want to be more Godlike.  May we willingly and humbly surrender ourselves to you, asking that your Holy Spirit would work in our hearts and minds, to change our attitudes and actions and to make us holy.  Amen

Every blessing

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