Today’s Reading: Ephesians 4-6
Today’s Reflection: Ephesians 4:17
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.
In the second half of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he focuses on the subject of how we ought to live as Christians. Today’s reflection text is the first verse under a section titled “The New Life” in the English Standard Version of the Bible. The existence, the way of being that we are to have as followers of Christ is New. It entails doing things we have not done or experienced before. There are three key points this text shows us about the New Life in Christ.
1) There is a difference. The walk of a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, a part of His body, is notably and discernibly different than the walk of a Gentile, or an unbeliever. If you claim to be a Christian, and your life is concerned with the same interests, concerns, and values as an unbeliever, something is not right. The direction, focus and purpose of your life (even the idea that your life has a definitive purpose) should all be shaped by your experience with Jesus and what He has taught you. Your being has been renewed by the life giving power of Jesus death and resurrection. You are, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, a New Creation, holy and set apart for His purposes.
Ephesians 4:24 – and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
2) The way of the Gentiles is futile. There is a misconception about the nature of life. Many people think there is a spiritual life, for those who believe in and follow God, and a secular life, for those who don’t acknowledge God. The truth is there is no such thing as a “spiritual life”, because by definition all life is spiritual (John 6:63). All life is created and sustained by God (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:3; Job 12:10). So if all life is spiritual, being un-spiritual is death (Roman 8:6,13). This is why the way of the Gentiles is futile. No matter what spectacular feats they accomplish, or what pleasures they enjoy, or what wealth they create, or what fame and notoriety they achieve, nothing will truly satisfy them. Their pursuit only fuels their lust for ever more perverse behaviours and this pursuit can only end in death. Their blind desire for pleasure and wealth alienates them from God, and from true life itself.
Ephesians 4:18-19 – 18) 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. 19) They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
3) The change begins in your mind. The Gentiles Paul describes were ignorant and failed to understand the Gospel because their hearts were hardened against it. How did this happen? When the Gospel had been preached to them they had rejected it, in their minds (Zechariah 7:12). Paul himself had been like this. As Saul, the persecutor of Christians, the testimony of the disciple Stephen (a testimony many Pharisees literally covered their ears to avoid hearing—Acts 7:57) did nothing to change him (Acts 8:1-3). It wasn’t until his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that he opened his mind to the Gospel, and the renewal that begun there transformed his whole being (Acts 9:1-22). Anyone who submits to the renewing of their mind can be transformed (Romans 12:2), their hardness of heart replaced with a heart that yield’s to God’s truth and instruction (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Ephesians 4:21-23 – 21) assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23) and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,