Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Transformed: Part 1”
Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV)
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. 20 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,[f] 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.
Tim Keller says this: “You can take the people out of slavery, but you can’t take the slavery out of the people easily.” He gives the example of the Israelites, whom God delivered out of Egypt in a miraculous fashion from bondage to freedom—yet somehow, the Israelites were not completely free. Even though they were no longer under the bondage of Egypt, they were still operating out of a slave mentality. It took God perhaps a few months to take the people out of slavery, but it took 40 years to take the slave mentality out of the people.
Paul constantly reminds the Ephesian Church that they are no longer the people that they once were—the enemies of God. In fact, Paul describes their “old self” as having such hardened hearts that they would not even listen to rational logic, but they gave themselves to every sinful desire of their flesh. Now, they are no longer enemies of God, but sons and daughters of God—this is a drastic and immediate identity shift. Isn’t salvation such a profound miracle? It’s pretty crazy to think about how sudden that identity change is: We go from enemy of God to friend of God, from darkness into light, from sinners into saints, etc. So we see that deliverance out of bondage is a quick process that is done by God. But after that, we see the growing pains of sanctification—the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is not an easy process, and it will last the rest of our life until we stand face to face before God.
What is important to notice in this passage is that there is an active task of putting off our old self and putting on our new self. The language Paul uses reminds us of taking off our old clothes and putting on new clothes. One commentator explained it this way: Imagine you are a prisoner and have been released from prison. You are no longer in prison, yet you continue to wear your prison clothes. How ridiculous would it be if you decided to wear prison clothes for the rest of your life?
We have stepped into our new identity as co-heirs with Christ. But we need to actively shed our old self and actively adopt our new self. I’d like to give two encouragements to two types of people: Perhaps you are someone who has recognized that Jesus is your Savior and you’ve become a child of God, but you have not walked in this important aspect of shedding off your old self and putting on the new self. My encouragement to you is to heed the Apostle Paul’s advice to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Perhaps you are someone who struggles to put off the old self and put on the new self, and you are discouraged that old habits seem to die hard. Let me encourage you by telling you that sanctification and transformation is a process. Who you are in 10 years is not who you are now, and as long as you are actively putting on the new self, you will see that transformation in years to come. Don’t lose hope.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for doing all of the work on the Cross. You saved me when I could not save myself. Thank You for adopting me into this family of God. I know that I am no longer bound to my old self, but You have given me the right to put on the new self. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I may live out the promise of God in my life every single day. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 16-17