Ephesians 4:17-20. 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. 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. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!
How are we supposed to live as those who are in Christ? We know that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly places (1:3). But does this effect how we actually live day to day? Should it? Does the New Covenant demand not only a faith in the giving of those blessings but also a faith that actively participates in those blessings?
The answer is clear in Ephesians. It does. Paul calls it our walk.
What we see in Ephesians 4:17-24 is that our walk is actually realized in our minds. In our understanding. So he warns us not to walk like the Gentiles (unbelievers) whose minds are futile and their thinking darkened. But notice the progression. The ignorance of the mind comes from the hardness of the heart. And the ignorance of the mind leads to all kinds of lousy behaviors – sensuality, greed, impurity.
Heart. Mind. Actions. That’s your walk.
For the Ephesians it was a terrible cycle. An addiction cycle. Look at verse 19 again. The hard heart and the darkened thinking soon turn into callousness. The inability to feel. They can’t feel pain. They can’t feel remorse. They can’t feel pleasure. And what do we do when we can no longer feel? We try desperately to feel. Something. Anything. No restraint. Pleasure at any cost. In fact, we become greedy for sensuality. Addiction results when the thing you seek out for pleasure no longer satisfies you and you need more and more of it until you spiral into anger, or despair.
On some level this is the walk of everyone who does not know Christ and his all satisfying grace and love. And on this side of Heaven we who are in Christ are still not out of the woods of addiction yet. Can you identify this addictive way of walking in your own life? What are you chasing that’s not Jesus? Only God is able to meet all your needs and desires without ever letting you down. Only Christ can prevent the hard heart that leads to insatiable greed.
The great thing about the gospel (and Paul and Jesus and God) is that it never just identifies the problem. It always tells us the solution too. And the great thing about the solution is that it is something (or Someone) that we ALREADY HAVE. That means the solution always comes by faith in God’s grace.
If the problem is in our minds the solution must be in our minds too. But by grace we have the mind of Christ! (1 Cor. 2:16). Do you believe that? Paul did. And so he trusted their learning.
Ephesians 4:20-21. But that is not the way you learned Christ! 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
When we were saved we went to Jesus school. We’ve learned him. We’ve heard him. We’ve been taught in him. Christ is the subject and Christ is the teacher (note: the phrase “you have heard about him” literally says “you have heard him”) and Christ is the school. In Jesus school the mind was renewed, the heart was softened, and now the behavior can change. All by the truth that is in Jesus. But what is the truth of Jesus that changes how we walk?
Here it is- we are new.
You and I are the new creation. That’s the truth of Jesus and the grace of God. The old is gone the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). Here’s how Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:21-24
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, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Trust me this is all past tense in Greek. We WERE taught (in the past). Paul is not giving them a new command here to put off the old self and put on the new self. He’s reminding them that it has already happened. He’s describing their salvation experience. We have ALREADY put off the old self, and we have ALREADY put on the new self (see Col. 3:9-10). We have the likeness of God. We have his righteousness and holiness. It’s done. By grace through faith we have moved forever from old to new. Praise God for this glorious grace.
You can’t change your walk (behavior) without changing the mind and the heart. And you can’t change the mind and heart without completely getting rid of the old self. The old identity. But praise God that is what “to live is Christ” has done. New self. New heart. New mind. And a whole new walk to go with it. So why would we try to live from the old mindset of the old self any longer? If that identity is gone why walk like it’s still there controlling you?
That’s right. Because we’re addicted. But we don’t have to be. And the journey begins not with new behaviors but with new beliefs. Faith. Faith in who Jesus is and who we are in him. Start with grace. Start with your new identity. Your new self. Paul did.
The behaviors will come tomorrow. But for today there’s grace.