As we continue in Ephesians chapter 4, the apostle Paul comes back to the word picture of our “walk” to illustrate living the Christian life. And he starts with the negative. “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, darkened in their understanding, alienated from God” (Eph 4:17-18). (Here “Gentile” refers to those separated from God, not a specific race.) Paul goes on to explain that although this is how you once lived, “you did not learn Christ in this way” (Eph 4:20).
Paul begins with a contrast. A sinful lifestyle or “walk” is how you once lived prior to your introduction to Christ. It is not how you continue to live once you have “learned” Christ; once Christ has entered your life; once you have received all the “new” that changed inside you when you embraced His gospel message. That sinful past is to reside just there – in your past.
Remember, grace says, “Come as you are to our community of faith.” There are no rungs on the ladder of righteousness that you have to climb before you are accepted by God or by us, His children. The only work that God requires to be approved and accepted by Him is the work of faith. That is, to come with empty hands and accept His gift, His death in your place, for eternal life.
Though you are welcome – and even encouraged – to come as you are, you are not welcome to stay that way. Your sinful past, marked by a futile mind and a darkness in your understanding is meant to be just that – in the past. And God’s call to move forward, to break free from the sin of your past, could not be more clear.
“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…” (Eph 4:22). Your old self, your former way of life, your sinful direction…STOP. Lay them aside. No longer walk in them.
How is STOP possible or is it even possible? Let’s continue, “And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind…” (Eph 4:23). Somehow your mind, formed and informed by your past practice of sin, is to be changed; to be transformed; to be renewed; to be made new. But how does this happen? We continue.
“And put on the new self…” (Eph 4:24). Ah, here is some action to take on our part, putting on the new self. What does this new self look like? “Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in you in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:24).
You have a new man inside. A righteous man, a holy man, a man created in the likeness of God. And it may sound simple to say, but living the Christian life is simply living according to the new man inside. So with all this righteousness, and holiness, and likeness of God now – yes now, even this minute – living inside of you, is living the Christian life as simple as flipping the switch from the old man to the new? We will talk about it next time.