Change is a part of life. Changes happen around you all the time. The seasons are constantly changing, your body changes with age, styles of hair, clothing, and home decor change, and technology changes so fast that it is difficult to keep up-to-date. Change is part of the world that God has created. Though you live in a world that is changing it does not mean you like it. Most do not like change.
Now there is a part of change that we do appreciate and enjoy—newness. We enjoy spring when all things become new. We enjoy babies being born. We enjoy having a fresh clean new look. We like getting new cars, home, or toys. Most people dream about what it would be like to live a new life. If you can have a new life what would you do?
If you are in Christ you have a new life. Now when it comes to this new life in Christ, God does not just want to save you, He wants to change you. Paul compares the new life in Christ as a walk—or way of life. When Paul talks about “walking in a manner worthy of the calling you have been called” [4:1-3] he talks about more than a temporary fix [or new habit for a new year]; rather walking in new life is changing into a whole new way of living.
do not walk as you once did [Ephesians 4:17-21]
Paul shares the truth of walking in new life with urgency and divine authority, “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.” [v.17a] He is not throwing out suggestions or casual comments, rather it is as if he were saying, “I share this with you, and insist on it in Christ.” Paul calls believers not to walk as they once did before Christ, so he contrasts the way an unbeliever with the new life in Christ. Can you identify 7 characteristics of the Gentiles lifestyle? [vs.17-19] They can be summed up by three marks of an unbeliever. The picture you get of our plight without Christ is not pretty.
First, you were futile in your thinking [v.17b]. Futile in thinking means before Christ your thinking failed to produce the results or failed to achieve the goals. Your mind was always searching, but never finding satisfaction. You were left feeling empty, falling prey to foolish idolatries, and fumbling for answers because you are not in touch with true reality, rather restless with trivialities. Most thinking of an unbeliever is rooted in self, which asks, “How can I change things?” When a follower of Christ asks, “How does Christ change things?”
Second, you had a Godless outlook on life [v.18]. You were estranged from God. You were like foreigners in an unfamiliar land without a compass or sense direction. You were walking, but getting nowhere. You did not know your way because you have no understanding of God because you were visually impaired spiritually. You were ignorant to His purposes and plans. Your knowledge of Him does not translate into a relationship with Him. It is not so much what you know, but what you do with what you know. Before Christ you deliberately refused and rejected a Godward life leaving you hardhearted toward the way of God.
Third, you were controlled by your moral callousness and consuming passions [v.19]. You had spiritual leprosy that dulled your sensitivity to sin. You are unable to exercise self-control because you had no power over your cravings. You had no shame. Your life was like a spiritual episode of the Jerry Springer Show. You were morally depraved and consumed to please only yourself. You were in a vicious cycle of wanting to stop sinning, but not knowing how nor having the right motivation.
I told you, the picture of our plight was not pretty. As I read down through this list I am sickened by my former spiritual state. I think that is the point. You should have a bad taste in your mouth over your former way of life. This is not the way a believer has learned Christ [vs.20-21]. Now the prerequisite for a changed life starts with godly desire to change [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17]. Your thinking changes the way you act; God-centered thinking leads to God-centered action. How can you change your thinking you ask? Hold tight.
how to walk in new life in Christ [Ephesians 4:22-24]
A changed life and God-centered thinking are the fruit of your salvation in Christ. Jesus is more than just the Savior of sin; He is the change agent for all spiritual growth. When you begin a relationship with Christ you can expect a lifelong journey with Him. Paul shifts his attention from your former way of walking to walking in the new life. He gives three ways to walk away from your former way of life. This is how the gospel affects your thinking:
First, kill your old self [v.22]. Why does the old self need to be put off? It is corrupt through and through with deceitful desires. Think of an old building that is no longer safe and without hope of being fixed. Instead, it needs to be demolished. Likewise, the old man full of sinful decay needs to be trashed. Do not hold on to the remnants of your former way of living. It destroyed you then and will seek to destroy you now.
Second, renew your mind [v.23]. Once the old self is destroyed it needs to be replaced with a new structure. At this point we allow God to remodel our mind from the foundation to the structure to the interior décor. God is not concerned about a beautiful looking building on the outward; He is challenging us to consider the inward. He wants to renew our control-center—the mind [cf. Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10]. Before our relationship with Christ our mind was motivated by self, but in Christ He moves in to be at the center.
Third, replace the old by putting on righteousness and holiness [v.24; cf. Col.3:12]. God not only author salvation, He wrote the manual on how to live following salvation. Remember, Christ came not just to save you, but to change you form the inside out. As Timothy Keller says, “the gospel is not just the ABC’s of your faith it is the A-Z’s” of your spiritual growth. You created in the likeness God, but in Christ you have the power and motivation to become like Him [2:10; Galatians 6:15]. What is God like and what are you to strive to be like? He is righteousness and holiness [v.24].
How can you know if you are really changing in Christ? As changed follower of Christ walking in the way you will have a godly response to trials, know the sins you struggle with a growing desire to walk away [Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9], you humbly allow others to confront you in love, you enjoy accountable from others for change, and you involve God in the change process giving Him all the glory. Have you experienced the new life in Christ like this?
Do you know why railroad tracks are 4ft. 8 ½ inches apart? These measurements are rooted from the English who set train tracks into motion, but their width apart has a long history. 4ft 8 ½ inches is the width wagon wheels are apart, the width of ruts in the road, the width of Roman chariots, which all come from the width of two horses butts put together. We are people who do not like change.
If you are like me, there are many areas in your life that you would still like to change. Walking in the way of Christ is a life long journey of growth and changes; the new life is just the beginning. What changes do you need to make in your thinking? Are you ready to allow the work of Christ to help you walk in His ways?