“Back To the Holy Fire” pt 15
“…But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians 4:20-24 NASB
Up to this point in the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul has painted for us a picture of the goodness of the intention of God for us. From Chapter one, verse one through chapter three-verse 21, he tells of the eternal plan of old, and how God has named each one of us IN CHRIST to be joint heirs with Him. He tells us that God wishes to fill us with a special knowledge, (gnosis) that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and as we receive that knowledge, we gain inward power from His divine presence.
Then, in the beginning of chapter four, Paul begins the pivotal passage. He begins to convey how we are to receive and function in these wonderful gifts of faith, and that we need to be in community to actualize the gifts God has for us. He gives us the challenge that in this process we are to grow up and become fully functional in the body of Christ.
With the beginning of today’s passage, Paul once again moves to a new level of challenge in the letter. This passage is a pivotal passage leading to our behavior as Spirit-filled Christians.
First, he reminds us that “we have not learned about Christ” in the way the world, thinks. In other words, we do not think like the popular crowd. The “in” crowd is not our measure or standard for living. He pointedly states that our minds our not to be “futile” or empty with useless reasoning. The KJV uses the word “vanity”. I like this word because it describes the attitude of many who follow the “bling” crowd today. It points to a thinking that is self-centered and focused on materialism and self-gain; the “me-first” generation. Many in the entertainment industry today are that way. I cringed the other day when I heard that one such entertainer never wears the same $18,000 dollar dress twice. A friend of mine recently told me that his mission could turn one dollar into ten when feeding the hungry of eastern Kentucky. Think what one of those dresses could do: I already have done the math: $180,000.00 dollars. That is right, one-hundred-eighty-thousand dollars worth of food out of one dress. If that female Hip-Hop artist wears four of five dresses like that a month – well, now you do the math! It is pure vanity. Yet our whole society buys into this stuff, and the irony is that many of the poor are the ones who buy the CDs and support the “Bling” crowd.
Let us move on… We have not so learned Christ. Paul begins to give specific instructions. Let me give you a list. In bible study, sometimes it is helpful to take a pen and piece of paper and simply list commands, directives, and promises you find in scripture. From verse twenty-one through twenty-four, I find:
Ø Put away your former life
Ø Put away your old self
Ø Be renewed in the spirit of your minds
Ø Clothe yourself with the new self
It is really very simply to ready and yet it is a greater challenge to live, isn’t it? There is a theme in this passage, however, that is found throughout the entire letter – that of inward renewal and power or charism, (gifting and empowerment of the Divine). The first two directives in the list, the “put aways”, are our decisions to choose to receive the inward working of the regenerative power of Christ. We must make conscious choices to be in community, to pray, to read the bible, to fellowship, and to serve. We must be willing to act on God’s word and wisdom for our lives in order to receive. Then, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.
The third directive is the central point. Be renewed. It is almost as classic as Rene Descartes statement “I think, therefore I am.” Be. Be renewed. As you obey the wisdom of Christ, then He will do what He has promised to do through the office and power of the Holy Spirit. And the first evidentiary change you will notice is in your thinking; the spirit of your mind. Now, this word spirit is the Greek Word: πνεῦμα—pneuma, and is the informal form of the proper noun for the Holy Spirit. In the older texts of scripture, especially the Oxford, KJV, and the Logos International, when you see the word spirit in small case, it usually is in reference to the human spirit, our inner person. Sigmund Fraud called it the “ID”. Check out I Thessalonians 5:23 for a reference to our make-up. We are a spirit, with a soul, in a body. When you see the word spirit capitalized, it is usually in reference to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead.
What Paul is saying in this pivotal passage is that we are to be influenced and inspired by a “new refreshing wind” of thought and realization – the kind that comes from the Divine. This is what the source of our charism becomes.
Finally, Paul ends up with three great words to describe this refreshing wind, this new kind of thinking. In verse twenty-four, he tells us “it is created…” a work of God, not of our own, “…in truth”… revelation by the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised, (John 12-16), and it is “in righteousness and holiness.”
Therefore, as we receive this refreshing we are made aware of our reconciliation with God through the process and we begin to see ourselves the way God sees us – holy, in others words, set apart for the Lord. We belong to Him now, and not to the world and its pulls and pressures. Pax E Bonum