|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 36
Meditation Title: Made New
Eph 4:20-24 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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.
There is a fundamental truth about being a Christian which unbelievers, ‘nominal Christians' (those in word only) and even so-called ‘liberal Christians' (those who demean the word of God and only believe the bits they want to believe), miss. It is, very simply, this basic truth that a Christian is NOT someone who has just ‘turned over a new leaf, or someone who believes basic information about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, but it IS someone who, in Jesus' own language has been ‘born again' (Jn 3:3-8) and who is, in Paul's words, ‘a new creation' (2 Cor 5:17) and in John's words, are ‘children of God' and ‘born of God' (Jn 1:12,13). Christians are people who have been remade by the work of God's Holy Spirit, because of what Jesus achieved on the Cross at Calvary.
Now the follow-up to the above paragraph, is that there are very practical outworkings of being born again, and it is those outworkings that Paul now speaks about. He has, you may remember, just been writing about how they must not live like unbelievers do in the futility of their thinking, given over to sensual living. So now he emphasises that they mustn't live like that: “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” or “You didn't continue to know that way of life when you encountered Christ.” Oh no, the Son of God lived a very different way and as we “grow up into the head” (4:15) we become part of One who lives a very different sort of life!
Thus he continues, “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Of course they had heard of Jesus because he had been the foundation of the Gospel and Paul had conveyed that himself when he was in Ephesus. Note the two levels, if you like, of teaching spoken of here: “heard of him” and “taught in him”. The ‘heard' is about verbal teaching that has been given to them about Christ, but the ‘taught in him' is about the learning experience they have been through in their direct encounter with him and in being ‘born again.' This latter one is a level of teaching that the nominal Christian cannot know about. It is a teaching by experience. Once Christ is in our life we are being impacted by him in a way that was impossible before we received his Spirit. It is direct encounter with God! That teaches and that changes us! Look, says Paul, remember what you heard and remember what has happened to you. All of that was very different from that which the unbelievers know and experience, and that should have told you already that the life you are to live out is very different from theirs!
He continues to explain: “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.” That is the first part of it – to ‘ put off'. God has totally changed us by putting His Holy Spirit within us and He will be working to bring about a Christ-like nature in us, but He doesn't make us robots; He still allows us to make choices, to make decisions, to play our part by acts of will. This same language of our responsibility is seen a lot in Paul's letter to the Colossians: “(you) set your hearts on,” (3:1) and “( you ) set your minds on,” (3:2) and “(you) Put to death, therefore,” (3:5) and “you must rid yourselves of,” (3:8) and “put on the new self,” (3:10) and “clothe yourselves,” (3:12) and “put on love.” (3:14). This is all the language of effort. It's the same ideas as Paul conveyed to the Romans: “We died to sin,” (Rom 6:2), and “count yourselves dead to sin,” (6:11), and “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” (6:12). The teaching is 1) Know who you now are, and 2) Make the effort to live like it. Now this ‘making an effort' is a very different thing to the unbeliever striving to appear good. It is simply making the mind decision to live as the Holy Spirit is prompting you to live – in purity, holiness and righteousness. He's done the changing and it is now up to us to live out this newness.
See what Paul goes on to say: “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.” There is exactly that which we have been saying. There is a two-sided newness. First there is a new “attitude of your minds” which simply means a determination to live in co-operation with God's Spirit as He teaches, leads and inspires us. Second, there is the newness of ‘putting on' or purposefully living like that. It's not only in the mind; it is to be lived out in the life. God Himself is to be our goal, to be like Him, as we said, living righteous lives (living by God's standards), lives that are characterized by holiness (distinctive by their purity and goodness).
When you take time to consider these things, it is easy to see that we have a twofold target in living out our daily lives. On one side there is shying away from the old attitudes of self-centred, godless thinking which resulted in sensuous, self-determined living, and on the other side there is reaching out for or putting on, the new nature of Jesus Christ's purity and goodness, that is now dwelling within us and waiting to be lived out. Let's make sure we do it! `