With the Lord’s authority, I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbours the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. 3 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:17-32 NLT
Old habits are hard to break. Some may seem easy, but in reality, it takes a lot of effort to stop doing things we once did. For example, biting nails. This can be a very difficult thing to stop doing it especially if you have done it for over 30 odd years. What about swearing? Before I knew Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I swore a lot trying to fit in the crowd. It took two years to break the habit and it was hard.
Paul talks about letting go of our old habits and putting on or living out new ones. When we accept Jesus as our Saviour, we are to change the way we live, however, sadly many people claim they are Christians but don’t live it out in their day to day lives. Paul said this should not be. If we are still like the world, we are not reflecting Christ and we are not being “Christ-like” one or a true “Christian.” Now granted, as I said, old habits are hard to break, but we should be making an effort. There are also people who have been Christians for years but have not gotten past the toddler stage and continue to do things they shouldn’t. Paul urges us to let go of the old practices as if they were old clothes and put on the new clothes that Christ gives us.
Paul says that the Gentiles still walk in darkness and are alienated from God. The Gentiles represent the world. They are futile in their thinking. They are void of a useful aim or goal and have failed to attain the purpose of living, receiving God’s salvation and forgiveness. God’s Spirit and presence guide us in our conduct. Those who do not know Christ are lost. Their hearts are blind to the truth. They live in darkness. They are simply separated from God. Their ignorance of God and hard-heartedness is from being insensitive to God and His ways. The world is all about self, looking out for selfish desires with no regards to others. There is no concern for personal standards or social morals.
Paul shows a relationship between our personal thoughts, character and behaviour. We become what we think in our hearts. We speak from our hearts. The more a person does wrong, the easier it becomes. It may start off as a joke, such as lying, stealing, gossiping or taking drugs. However, those things quickly can become habits and control us. The sad thing is the world is living in great confusion. Most people are looking for something or someone to fill their lonely aching hearts. We know that the answer is Jesus but how will they know if we don’t show them by the way we live?
Since we have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, we are to throw off our worldly ways and our former way of living and allow the Spirit of God to renew our thoughts and attitudes. We are to live in our new nature which reflects Christ, righteous and holy. We lived like the world, but now that we know God, we are no longer separated from Him. We accepted God’s truth. We are to become more and more like Jesus in purity. We are new in Christ.
Let’s think of a mirror. When we look in the mirror we see our reflection. Just use your imagination for a minute. Supposed the mirror has its own agenda. Rather than reflect our face, what if it said, “Look at me! Aren’t I beautiful?” Here’s another crazy thought, what if it was an insecure mirror. “What if I blow it? What if I send a cracked reflection instead of one that is clear? Besides have you seen the blemishes on me?” Self-doubt could paralyse a mirror. What about self-pity? “I’ve been crammed down in this woman’s handbag far too long, being dragged from here to there, thrown on the floor, over her shoulder, left in the cupboard. Do you think I could reflect her face now? No way. I’m staying hidden. She’s not getting any reflection out of me.”
Good thing that mirrors are just objects with no thoughts or mirrors or we all would be going mad. However, we are God’s mirrors. We are tools of heaven. We are to reflect God’s glory. Paul wrote earlier on in 2 Corinthians that we with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit. Another translation says our unveiled face beholds as in a mirror. Either way, they mean the same. The more we behold God, the more we will reflect Him.
So how do we do this? Paul gives us negative and positive commands of how to live as well a reason for the positive in verses 25-32. Our old self refers to our former way of living like the world. The lifestyles that Paul urges to let go of and stop doing are lying, allowing anger to control us, stealing, gossip, foul or abusive language, grieving the Spirit, bitterness, anger, harsh words, slander, and all evil behaviour. These habits may be hard to break, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can. It’s a constant work in progress, we just have to be diligent at doing so.
Here is the way we reflect God’s glory in our living. We are to tell the truth for we are all brothers and sisters in the family of God. We are to let go of anger and not give a foothold to the devil. Anger is a hard one sometimes especially for those more prone to it, however, we can give that anger to God and He will replace that anger with compassion and peace. We are to use our hands for good hard work and from that work share generously to those in need. Our language needs to be good and helpful. We are to encourage each other instead of putting them down. We are identified as God’s own children, therefore, we should obey the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work in our lives. We are to be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving others as Christ has forgiven us.
Once God enters our lives and we let go of our old sinful ways, then we can truly reflect His glory. People will see Christ in us. We are being transformed daily into what God wants us to be. Our personalities don’t change, but our character and the way we treat others should. God is not finished with us yet. He’s still working in us. We should not beat ourselves up for not being where we would like to be nor should we compare ourselves to others. However, we all should be growing in grace and reflecting Christ in all we do and say.
Think of the areas that Paul urges us to let go. Is there anything that we are struggling with that is hindering us from being the reflection Christ wants us to be? Is self-pride, self-pity or self-doubt getting in the way? Putting ourselves before God is a very worldly way of living. Ask God to help you let go of self, to let go of worldly things and put on the clothes of purity and holiness.