One of the beautiful things about becoming a Christian is the change God makes in each of his children. We all come to God as sinners but are forgiven, cleansed, and changed by God. However, if you have been a Christian for any period of time you will understand that there is a process involved in this change. While our salvation is instantaneous, our sanctification (on-going change) is a process.
- The Process (Eph. 4:22-24)
In this chapter, Paul called on the Ephesian believers to walk worthy of their calling (4:1). In other words, they were to live lives that honored God and underscored the changes God had made in their lives. He also told them they shouldn’t live like unbelieving Gentiles who are still ignorant of God and live sinful lives. When he gets to verses 22-24, he gives three commands that all Christians need to do to keep pure for the Lord.
We must remove sinful behavior (22). When we realize that a thought, speech, or action is sinful, what should we do? We should “put off” or remove that from our life. Some of the things we have gotten used to doing may not seem to be sinful to us, but when the Holy Spirit convicts us of that, we must remove it from our lives.
We must renew our minds (23). Renewing our minds involves replacing our former way of thinking with God’s way of thinking. This is accomplished by reading, meditating on, and applying the Bible to our thinking. We do this because God has given us the Bible as a perfect guide book for our lives. What He says in it will change our way of thinking if we let it.
We must replace the old with the new (24). If we love God, we will not only remove and renew, we will also replace the old with the new. This involves instilling godly habits. Where we used to lie, God wants us to be honest. Where we used to blurt angry words, God wants us to control our responses. Where we used to steal, God wants us to give. Where we used to speak foul language, God wants us to speak uplifting words.
- The Examples
If God wants us to have a new life, he must have included examples of it in the Bible, right? Yes, there are a number of examples in both the Old and New Testaments.
Naaman the leper was a proud, enemy general who was unwilling to do what God’s prophet told him to do. But when he finally did, his whole attitude changed (2 Kings 5:15). King Nebuchadnezzar was a proud king who boasted about his accomplishments, but God humbled him and his whole demeanor changed (Daniel 4:37). The demon possessed man from Gadera (Mark 5:14-15) was a terrifying, unclothed, violent man, but after meeting Jesus, he was completely changed. The adulterous woman (John 8:2-11) was forgiven by Jesus but was told not to commit this sin anymore. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8) defrauded people by overcharging them for taxes but after meeting Jesus he wanted to make things right with those he had harmed.
The point of Ephesians 4:22-24 seems aptly illustrated by the changes made in these people’s lives. They removed their sin, renewed their minds, and replaced the bad behavior with God-pleasing habits.
- The Problem
As we consider the biblical principles and these real-life illustrations, it seems very clear. But there are some problems that face us today. One problem is ourselves. We don’t take the time to examine our lives in the light of the Bible. And because of that we don’t see the sins that God wants to highlight. So we continue to live in sin and don’t have the joy of living the way God intended. Another problem is false teaching. When the gospel is presented without repentance, people add Jesus to their lives without turning from the sin that condemns them and displeases the Lord. When Christianity is presented without the principles of remove, renew, and replace, believers live sinful lives “ignorant” of their need. This is illustrated by many so-called Christians who live much like the world, say “I’m not perfect just forgiven,” and really don’t look much different from an unbeliever.
So what should we do? We need to put into practice what the Bible teaches us in Ephesians 4:22-24. We need to remove ungodly behavior from our because we want to please the Lord. We need to renew our minds by reading, meditating on, and applying what the Bible says to our lives. We need to replace ungodly habits with godly ones. When we do this we will be pleasing to the Lord and a good testimony to the world.
But it shouldn’t stop there. We need to think of people we know who profess to be Christians. As we see them continuing to live sinful lives, we are aware of their sin, but they may be ignorant of it. Because they have not followed God’s commands, their minds are still affected by their old, sinful habits. Since we know the answer, we should humbly try to help them. As they see our godly behavior, and hear us explaining God’s directions, perhaps they will respond with repentance and spiritual growth.