Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Radical New Way to Live

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:17-32).

In this passage, Paul urges us “no longer” to “walk,” or live, “as the Gentiles do” (Eph. 4:17), in ignorance and futility of mind. The phrase “no longer” indicates that he is referring to our manner of life before we came to faith in Christ, and the reference to “Gentiles” means anyone living outside the household of faith. Such people—including us, before conversion—are “alienated” from God, with “darkened” understanding, callousness, sensuality, greed, and impurity (vv. 18–19). But when we “learned Christ” (v. 20), everything changed. When we were taught the truth in Jesus, we put off our old self and its lifestyle, and put on the new self after the likeness of the true, righteous, and holy God who saved us (v. 24). Now, with nothing to prove, no image to maintain, no need to impress, we are able to live with truthfulness and grace.

So many men today seem to have anger problems. Road rage, domestic abuse, violent crime, and brawls in bars and on ball fields are predominantly male behaviors. When we “learned Christ,” however, we learned to keep our anger in check and keep the Devil at bay (vv. 26–27). Honesty and hard work become a way of life, which enables generosity toward our neighbors (v. 28). Our words, which once were used for self-exaltation, are now used for gracious edification. Sinful attitudes like bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, and malice are now replaced with godly traits like kindness, goodness, and forgiveness. These are not merely moral virtues accomplished through self-will. They are the result of our new identity, grounded in the gospel, because we now realize that God in Christ has forgiven us (v. 32).

This radically new way of living is the work of the Holy Spirit who has “sealed [us] for the day of redemption” (v. 30). He graciously brings the power to be freed from our “former manner of life” (v. 22), which was bitterly empty, so that we can now await the return of Christ, when we will all be perfectly conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29).

Erik Thoennes from the ESV Men's Devotional Bible

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