Are you a covert Christian? Do you live like the world? Are you indistinguishable from an unbeliever? That just shouldn’t be the case. I’m not saying you have to follow church traditions. I’m not saying you can’t drink, smoke, cuss, or whatever. I’m not even saying you can’t go out get a hooker and cheat on your spouse. What I am saying is, when you became a Christ Follower, God entered you. He indwells you. The Holy Spirit in His infinite power, wisdom, and love began working in you, changing, you and conforming you to the image of Christ. You should be discernable from the world. You should be distinctly different from them. The Holy Spirit does the work, but you choose to embrace the change or to bury it. It is a choice to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in you, and to exhibit His power, gifts, and fruit.
In verse 17 Paul says,
“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.”
Paul says we must no longer walk as the Gentiles (unbelievers) do. It is a choice, do you walk left or right. Do you meet your needs or your neighbors? Do you speak gossip about your co-worker or do you abstain from the group and the activity? Do you let your anger fly and cuss out or speak harshly to the gossiper or do you speak encouragement and truth to her? These are choices.
If you want to sing, you do not simply sit and hope an aria pours out of your mouth, you open your mouth and sing. If you want to sing well, you take lessons, you practice, and you rehearse. If you want to truly demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, you choose to exercise love, kindness, peace, joy, goodness, gentleness, faith, patience, and self-control.
The world can’t choose to exercise those qualities in earnest because they don’t have the Spirit. He is not at work inside them, He is at work outside them through you. They seek to serve themselves, even when it seems they are selfless. Their selflessness often meets their own needs and desires. Everyone wants to be happy. Most people want to be healthy and comfortable. The world seeks to fill those desires. We are different. We have the Father. We have Christ. We have the Holy Spirt. He is actively molding us to the image of Christ. He has made us a new creation. Verses 20-24 read,
“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, 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.”
Once again the choice is there. You choose to put off who you used to be and how you used to live. You choose to stop seeking your own desires and instead desire what God does. You let God renew your mind, changing your will from the former selfishness to the new mind created in the likeness of God. It is not a false goodness, a fake piety, or a phony selflessness. Our new mind is the mind of Christ, true righteousness and holiness.
Paul says, just put away all the sins of your past. Stop living as if you are not God’s child, saved by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit! He says you can stop living the way you used to live. Were you a liar? Stop lying and be honest with people, seek truth and speak truth. (Verse 25). Were you stealing? Work hard, earn your living honestly. (Verse 28).
One of the most common ways that we give into our self-centered flesh is by giving into our anger. Anger in itself is not a sin. Sometimes we are angry over something we should be angry about, like injustices against those who are not strong enough to stand up for themselves. Sometimes our anger is more selfish, things didn’t work out how we hoped. But how you express your anger, what you do with it, and how long you stew in it can be sinful. When you hold onto your anger and play with it, you give the enemy a chance to come in and tempt you to sin, and avalanche your sin and self-seeking nature. Verses 26-27 read,
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.”
How can you not sin in your anger? Express it appropriately, express it in your new self with the fruit of the Spirit. Use self-control. Don’t seek to mollify yourself but seek to right the wrong that angered you or you seek to learn from the situation. And if what angered you was because you didn’t get your own way, then repent and let that go. Put off your old self. Forgive whoever angered you just as God forgave you.
The tongue is another way many of us look and act like the world. I’ve caught myself saying, “I can’t help it.” But I can. You can! We have self-control! We have a choice. We can choose to speak or remain quiet. We can choose to speak goodness or wickedness. Verse 29 says,
“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.”
Is what you say going to break down and hurt someone or help them and build them up? Are your words like acid that debase a person or are they truth and love that build on or offer the foundation of Christ? God was graceful to you, you should be graceful to those around you. Truthful words and harsh words are not the same. Exhortation and criticism are vastly different. Don’t give into the lie that you are being frank and speaking with “tough love,” when you are really just being callous, unforgiving, and mean. There are occasions and people that can handle more exhortation than others. Those occasions are with a person whom you love and loves you just as much, when you both are Christ followers and you are not in public. Then you may say, “Brother, I’ve noticed you’re hurting and may be drinking too much” or “Sister, I understand you’ve been stressed, but I think the way you spoke to our sister was insensitive, and she’s very hurt.”
Verses 30-31 read,
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Holding onto your past self and giving excuses to your selfish behavior grieves the Holy Spirit. It makes His work seem meaningless when you ignore it and choose to live like the world. So instead, let it go. Let your old self die. Your old self was crucified with Christ, stop resurrecting it.
Verse 32 ends the chapter with advice you can choose to follow. Advice to intentionally exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”