23 December 2015

Discipleship: Off With the Old and On With the New

Note: This is part of my series on Discipleship and Disciplines. You might want to read from the beginning if you haven't already.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds his readers that they should no longer walk in darkness, but rather:
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, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).
 This is what it looks like to belong to Jesus, for those who have heard His word and been taught in Him (v. 21). The key to understanding this command is in verse 23, where Paul instructs the Ephesians to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind." This is no superficial remodel; we're demolishing this sucker with a wrecking ball and creating something completely different. It is much more than a mere resolution to be a better person.

Throughout the next two chapters, Paul gives many examples of how this principle looks in real life:
  • Lay aside falsehood; speak truth
  • Don't allow sinful anger to control you; reconcile quickly
  • Stop stealing; work hard so you'll have possessions to share
  • Don't use unwholesome words; build each other up
  • Put aside bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice; be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving
  • Don't produce the fruit of darkness and disobedience (immorality, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting); produce fruit of the light (goodness, righteousness, truth, thanksgiving)
  • Don't do dark deeds; expose them
  • Don't walk as unwise men; walk as wise
  • Don't be foolish; understand God's will
  • Don't get drunk with wine; be filled with the Spirit, encouraging each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
This behavior model is not based on suppression or impulse control; it's centered around replacement. The old, destructive, disobedient behaviors are displaced and choked out by the new, Christ-breathed ones. And the driving force is not our own will or desire; it is God's undefeatable power and our faithful acceptance of it.

Throughout our examination of these truths, it's vital to keep in mind that this is the same God, and the same plan, that are first introduced in Ephesians 1 and 2. In other words, Ephesians 4-6 are accomplished by the same One who called us out of darkness into light through His power (not through our own efforts). He prepared these good works beforehand so that we would walk in them. Thus, they are more of a birthright than a duty. They are what we were always meant to do.

And we know that if God has ordained us to walk in good works, He will certainly provide us with the means to do so. So we can relax: God is in charge, and He will give us the power we need. As Isaiah said, "The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish these things."

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