Welcome to Wednesday’s Podcast. Our reading today is Ephesians 4: 17-24 but today we’ll focus on verses 22-24:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
18 years ago I was sat in our church leader Mick Woodhead’s office and I heard him share – I was a young ‘intern’ at time – a question that has become our church vision – ‘do you want to live a better life’?
I think it’s a great question.
Culture offers us a vision of a better life: The year I was an intern – a ‘tribal trainee’ – as well as being mentored by Mick I worked at Waterstones in Sheffield City centre. This was pre-Amazon Prime. If you wanted a book in those days you ordered through a store. I was often surprised by how many people would buy self-help books.
Today it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s growing rapidly. The idea of self-help has become much broader – the desire for self-improvement has in many ways become the pursuit of the better life. The desire to work less hours; to have a smarter work life balance than the generations before us; to be ethical about what we buy and live in a way that is environmentally sustainable is important and of course an increasing awareness of what it means to have good mental health.
The desire for self-improvement, according to one US Newspaper, is so strong among the younger generations that 94% of millennials claim to have made personal improvements in 2015. From the growing increase in veganism to the park run movement – self-improvement is very much at the heart of our today’s culture – a vision of a better life.
I think there’s much about the ‘self improvement’ movement that we can embrace and celebrate. But the New Testament’s vision of the better life is different.
There’s no escaping the truth that in verses 17-20 the apostle Paul seems to be saying that when we lived without God in our lives we were spiritually dead. When the British actor & TV personality James Corden interviewed US rapper Kanye West about his acclaimed conversion to Christianity he responded with this: “people who don’t believe are walking dead. They are asleep and this is the awakening.”
The beautiful thing about Advent – the season we’re in now before Christmas – is that we celebrate & prepare for Christ’s coming – both at the first Christmas and his promised return.
We celebrate that our help, our salvation (or using Kanye West’s words – awakening) – comes from outside of ourselves in the person of Jesus.
Sure I can get to the gym. I can eat a really great diet. I can do ultra marathons and fast loads – external changes which, don’t get me wrong, can be good!
But only Jesus can bring significant and radical internal changes to our lives. He comes to radically overhaul. He comes to take charge. He comes to totally transform us. There’s stuff in my life I cannot change or fix even if I try really hard. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Only he has the power to forgive. Only he can wipe the slate clean. Only he can heal.
Our part of the bargain? To receive His forgiveness. To surrender our lives to Him – the whole of our lives – give him control.
For Paul, the better life – is to put on the ‘new self’ of Jesus Christ – of walking in confession & repentance – and asking God by his Holy Spirit to sanctify – to set us apart – to make us holy. When we pray ‘come Holy Spirit’ we’re always expecting God to do what he says in Psalm 139: 24:
‘See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.’
He longs for us to embrace the better life.
Let’s pray this week that – as we head further into the Advent season – the Lord opens more and more doors to invite, reach out and connect people we know with the author of the better life.
Jesus we thank you that in you we have a better life. Help us to walk in that this day! Amen
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 4:17-24
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.