Summary: Christians must remember that they are called to put off their former way of life, to renew their minds, and to put on the new self, which will produce a Godlier lifestyle.
Let us pray...
Our passage today is from Ephesians 4:20-24. It says:
20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Some of the most heartbreaking statistics have been released by George Barna’s research group over the past couple of years. Barna does a plethora of research concerning the lifestyle and beliefs of Christians and non-Christians alike. Perhaps the hardest statistic of them all to stomach is the comparison of the divorce rate between born-again Christians and non-Christians. Unfortunately, they are the same. Exactly the same. In the area that is perhaps one of our greatest opportunities of witness, we look no different. However, the divorce rate is not the only area where we have failed as Christians. Category after category, we consistently look no different.
Why? Why is this so? If letting Jesus Christ be the Savior and Lord of our life is supposed to radically change who we are, why is it that so few of us look any different? I suspect that Paul himself once asked this question, and it is quite likely that he asked it of the Ephesians themselves. Sure, there were definitely those Christians from Ephesus that were making an impact for Christ and changing the world by their love, but there were others who had not changed a bit. To get a better understanding, let’s get some context on our passage for today. In verse 17 of chapter four, Paul writes, “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.” So, it becomes quickly obvious that many of these Ephesian Christians were not doing the best job at showing their changed life off to the world. In fact, to the untrained eye, they still looked quite pagan. You would have no idea that they had made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ.
So why is this happening? Why are the Ephesian believers, and many Christians of today, not becoming and looking any different? The underlying motives for not changing are often quite different. For some, they just never got it in the first place, and this teaching is more than a reminder, it’s a clarification. For others, it’s not that they heard the Gospel wrong, and simply thought that their life need not change. No, it’s not a problem of “should I do it”; it’s more a problem of “how can I do it?” Many of us know intellectually the things of Christ, but so few of us actually can do them well and pull them off.
Paul begins his exhortation on why and how the Ephesians can actually become and look different in verse 20. However, we can see from this verse, that this is not a new teaching. It’s a reminder. Look at verse 20. It’s in reference to the past. “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” This is not a new teaching. It’s not as if Paul himself asked the Ephesians to receive Christ as their Savior, but encouraged them to continue on sinning.
In order to reexamine “the way in which we did come to know Christ,” as Paul writes, we must remember the truth of it all, and this is the first step in becoming and looking different for Christ. For Paul says in verse 21, “Surely you heard of him (better translation would be “heard him”) and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” You will need to look no further than the memories of your heart; no matter how faint they now seem, in order to examine this truth. For when you first heard Christ in your life and were first confronted with the truth, confronted with the love of the cross, it was obvious to you that to receive his forgiveness was to offer your life in its entirety. Anyone who has seriously encountered the offer of Christ through the cross has recognized that it is no mere trivial issue. However, it is but human nature that we forget. The Israelites always forgot, many of the Ephesians had forgotten, and even today, we still forget what our response is really to be. In reality, we most likely try to forget. We suppress it. We don’t want to deal with it. It’s always easier to follow the way of the flesh than the way of the cross. Nevertheless, Paul calls us to remember that truth and to bring it back into our life.