The Difference

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Ephesians 4:17-24

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.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.They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

 

Different. A simple word, right? But do we know how that simple word applies to us who have been saved by the grace of God? As I read through the Bible I can’t help but notice how God is determined to show us the stark difference between his kingdom and the world, the difference between those who have been redeemed and those who have not. This difference goes far beyond our outward behavior patterns being modified. It is a divine difference that God works within us. It is a fundamental change in our nature wrought by God’s Holy Spirit. The walk of discipleship is learning the reality of this difference. In following Jesus we embark upon a journey to walk in newness of life as we discover more and more who he is and what he has done to secure eternal salvation on our behalf. It is a life marked by being refreshed, nourished, and transformed by the power of the gospel. Spiritual growth finds it foundation in what God has already done in Christ. We would do well to not shift our focus away from the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is a well that will never run dry.

When a Christian sins against the Lord and/or against other people I believe that the root issue is a crisis of identity. That is why Paul points to the person and work of Christ as the basis for his confronting the sin issues of the believers and calling them to repentance. This causes us to look at our reading of the Scriptures from a different perspective. We don’t read the Bible to earn salvation, we read the Bible to learn salvation–how God saves sinners. A consistent healthy intake of the word of God is what leads us to being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our thoughts and attitudes are brought in line with God’s will and design and this results in us living changed lives for the glory of God. It results in us being different. It is this glorious difference that Paul expounds upon in his letter to the church at Ephesus.

Paul tells the believers that they must not live as those who are unsaved live. He goes on to describe the unregenerate life as one marked by confusion, spiritual death, ignorance, unresponsiveness to God, lust, greed, and impurity. Now I must say at this point that the endeavor of the Christian to live differently is not an attempt to earn God’s grace. Our efforts are useless to merit his grace in salvation. Paul was giving his exhortation based on who they were because of Christ alone. It is Christ who makes the difference. It is because of Christ that we are able to put off the corrupted old man and put on the new man. Having been brought from death to life by the power of the Holy Spirit, our minds–patterns of thought and attitudes–can be renewed.

We have been born again into the family of God with a new nature that is created after the likeness of God. The Father foreordained to bring a people unto himself, the Son died as a sin-bearing substitute drinking the cup of God’s wrath, and the Spirit carries out the act of regeneration in all of those who repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ. God is not into fixing us up, he is into total glorious transformation. When we are saved we are made righteous before him with a righteousness that is not our own but gifted to us by Jesus. We are also created with a nature that is holy like our Father. He does not call us his children for the sake of pageantry. We are literally born again by the seed of his Word being implanted in our hearts which produces divine life within us. Our sins are forgiven, our allegiance has shifted, our names are written in heaven, and we are eternally embraced by the Sovereign Creator of the universe. The difference is so dramatic that is it irreversible. We are not different because we try to be but because he has willed us to be.

 

 

 

 

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