Today’s passage begins with verses 17-19.
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.
They don’t know any better. They are ignorant to the real world around them and they have in the pride of the lies they believe become stubborn and refuse to open their eyes. That is their excuse! They are existing as best as they know how. Believer, are you? Are you living the best way you know how? Or are you living as if you don’t know the truth, the awesome wonderfulness of being a son of the Living God (Ephesians 1:5), sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) with power and authority over everything including the spirits (Ephesians 1:21)? In Ephesians 1:17-19 Paul wrote that knowing the truth was important to how we think and behave.
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Our eyes are open; we no longer have to walk in lies, thinking we’re free but slaves to sin. We have the choice that the lost do not have. Paul put in this way in Romans 3:15-23 (The Living Bible).
Does this mean that now we can go ahead and sin and not worry about it? (For our salvation does not depend on keeping the law but on receiving God’s grace!) Of course not !16 Don’t you realize that you can choose your own master? You can choose sin (with death) or else obedience (with acquittal). The one to whom you offer yourself—he will take you and be your master, and you will be his slave. 17 Thank God that though you once chose to be slaves of sin, now you have obeyed with all your heart the teaching to which God has committed you. 18 And now you are free from your old master, sin; and you have become slaves to your new master, righteousness.
19 I speak this way, using the illustration of slaves and masters, because it is easy to understand: just as you used to be slaves to all kinds of sin, so now you must let yourselves be slaves to all that is right and holy.
20 In those days when you were slaves of sin you didn’t bother much with goodness. 21 And what was the result? Evidently not good, since you are ashamed now even to think about those things you used to do, for all of them end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and are slaves of God, and his benefits to you include holiness and everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We can choose to walk in the Spirit because we know the truth, the real world that the lost can’t see. We have the hope of eternal life, the power and authority of Jesus’ name, the nature of our Father because His Spirit is within us, and we have been made into new creations. We can choose to be and live as the new self or we can choose to live as our old-self and live just as futilely as if we had never been saved. 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.
The old-self lived a temporary life. The old-self needed experiences, sensory satisfaction, and physical pleasures because the old-self didn’t know any better. His world was only what he could feel and see. That is just not true of us now. We know the truth, life is eternal, and the ultimate joy is unity with Jesus Christ. Why do we need a bucket list of events, encounters, and excursions when we can approach the throne of God any time we would like to do so? Why do we need a wish list when we have eternal life here and now?
Perhaps, we still behave the way we used to, still crave the old life because we are still thinking like the old-self. But the Holy Spirit renews our minds as well as our spirits. Renewal begins with knowing the truth as Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 1 to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened and choosing to act on the truth by following Jesus. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). He continued by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).
Renewing your mind begins with knowing the truth, believing it to the point that you submit to God, follow Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you. It is a choice to acquiesce your thoughts and therefore your will and actions to the Lord and allow Him to make you over. Romans 12:1-3 reads,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
You give yourself to God and by His grace He makes you new. Look at how Paul described this wonderful change in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (The Message).
Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
That is just wonderful news! He makes us new! We simply change our minds, that is choose to submit to Him and see Him in a new light and He changes our minds and lets us see the whole world in a new way! He did it! Jesus did it for us and because of what He did, we are new creations. That means we just don’t behave like we don’t know Jesus. Knowing God means that our minds are different and that means that our behavior is different. Ephesians 4 concludes with verses 25-32.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 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. 29 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. 30 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. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We no longer have to try to one-up people, make them think a certain way of us, or allow pride to get in the way of relationships. We are a part of one another, we are all united in Christ and with Him, we have the same Father, Lord, and Spirit; He is over all and through all and in all of us (Ephesians 4:6). To lie to someone, hurt them in anger, belittle them with words, or pervert them with our language is to do the same to yourself or to Jesus. It grieves God for us to acts as if He is not within us, to treat another believer as if He is not within them, and to stifle Him instead of obey Him and love one another as Jesus loved us.
As we love one another, we encourage one another, and we treat each other with the love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the Holy Spirit grows us and grows stronger among us. But when we choose to be like the lost who have to lift themselves up rather than those around them, we quench or suppress the Holy Spirit. We choose flesh over Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 reads,
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Living like this, with everyone lifting others up, you get lifted up too! If you’re busy encouraging Joe, I can bet you that Joe, John and Jerry are all busy encouraging you! And if they are encouraged, happy, or celebrating, then aren’t you too, since you love them as if they were you?