Can people really change? Can a habitual liar become an honest and trustworthy person? Can an ill-tempered hothead become a man or woman of peace? Can a lazy, greedy fool become someone who works hard and gives to others? Can a cussing gossiper become a clean-speaking encourager? Can a bitter, unhappy, grudge-holding person become a gentle, kind, and forgiving friend? YES! By the power of the Holy Spirit and faith in the Son of God, sinful people really can change into the holy men and women that God wants them to be. Jesus Christ really can change us into His likeness from the inside out – this is the very heart of the Gospel message. We truly can become new creations!
In today’s passage, the apostle Paul urges us to live like the new people of God that we have already become by our saving faith in Jesus Christ. Lost people (“the rest of the Gentiles” – verse 17) can’t help sinning. They walk in darkness and lack the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit inside them. The lost person’s mind is blinded by spiritual ignorance and his heart is hardened by sin and selfishness. The unbeliever is a prisoner of and slave to his or her sinful thoughts, desires, and attitudes. As Paul described it in Ephesians 2:1-3, the person without Christ is literally “dead in sin.” But if you have truly been born again by God’s Holy Spirit, you are no longer dead – you are alive in Christ! Now you have a new, Christlike nature on the inside to help you overcome sin and starting thinking and acting like Jesus! And the equally awesome truth is that the new heart that God has given you really wants to live like Jesus. Before you did not really want to change – deep down you loved your sin more than God. But now that new “Jesus on the inside” nature hates sin the way that God does. That new Christ nature loves what is good and holy. The old sinful nature is still inside you, but you don’t have to obey it anymore. By learning how to abide in Christ and walk with Him in faith, you really can live like the new creation that God has already declared you to be. The rest of Ephesians is going to paint us a more detailed picture of what that new life will look like. May we all “put on the new self” (verse 24) today and every day!
The Text (Ephesians 4:17-24)
17 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. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 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.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Questions to Think About
- When did you become a “new creation”? In other words, when did you first begin to experience the power of Jesus Christ on the inside giving you hatred for and victory over your sins?
- How can reminding yourself that you are a new creation help you right now in your struggles against sin?
- Verses 17-19 should make us weep. When we read about the desperate and helpless condition of people without Christ, we should weep with joy and thankfulness that God has saved us from the tragic state of having been separated from Him by our sinfulness. At the same time, we should weep with sorrow and compassion over the lostness of our unsaved family, friends, classmates, and travel team coaches and teammates. And we should pray and pray hard, giving thanks for own salvation and pleading with God for the salvation of the lost people whom He has placed in our lives.
- Verse 23 is short but very important. It is saying the same thing as Romans 12:2 – that to really change you need to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The battle for our spiritual growth is fought and either won or lost in our minds and hearts. That’s why we need to read God’s Word slowly and carefully each day. We need to listen to Christian music, pray, and spend time in uplifting conversation with other growing Christians every day. And we need to do these things honestly with a humble desire to meet with Jesus and do what He says. Our minds and hearts control our words and actions. If we put on Christ’s new nature that is already inside us while putting off the old, sinful thoughts and desires, we really will be changed into His likeness from the inside out.