Editor’s note: This series of posts provides seven principles related to killing sin and conforming to Christ in the context of your local church as revealed in Ephesians 4 and 5.
Read the first post in this series:
- The Means to Change (Eph 4:20-21)
When Ephesians 5:20-21 says that they “learned Christ” and that “the truth is in Jesus,” it is saying that their new identity is in Christ. And what is Christ’s objective for his church until he returns? John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” God gives his Word as instruction for change and his Spirit as the agent of change. The Spirit of God enables the people of God to understand the Word of God even as he empowers them to walk in obedience. Ephesians 1:4 says, “God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
If you are to be holy and blameless — if your conversations and conduct are to reflect your identity in Christ — then you must be GROWING in the knowledge of Truth (1 Pet 2:2). Through the Spirit and the Word, you have the divine means to change into Christlikeness. Consider now how this change takes place.
- The Method of Change (Eph 4:22-24)
… 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.
Putting off sin, renewing the mind, and putting on Christ-likeness is progressive in nature. We must daily depend upon the Spirit of God for sanctification directed by the Word of God. To that end, Andrew Davis wrote the following:
Information will be useless if it doesn’t result in actual growth on the part of Christians. This growth happens only by the grace of God, but it also happens with solid effort on our part: ‘continue to work out (not “work for”) your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil. 2:12-13)’… our efforts, so unwelcome in justification and impossible in glorification, are very much needed in sanctification.
Working out one’s salvation is a threefold process.
A. You must put off the thinking and lifestyle of the old man (Eph 4:22). Though the influences of sin in our life before coming to Christ are still present within us, they are no longer the president of us. In Christ, we can now overcome the world. (1 Jn 5:4)
B. You must put on the thinking and lifestyle of the new man (Eph 4:24). On this Sinclair Ferguson wrote:
There is no progress in holiness unless we put away what belongs to the old lifestyle and put on what belongs to the new one – simultaneously. This principle grows inevitably out of our union with Christ. To attempt to do one without the other leads only to failure. Putting away the old lifestyle is not the same as growing more like Christ.
C. You must be renewing your mind (Eph 4:23). If your aim is to glorify God, your focus must be on renewing your mind — through God’s Word. God’s Word, as Deuteronomy 32:47 says, is to be “no empty word for you, but your very life.”
So as you again consider your own struggle with sin, how can you renew your mind and actions according to God’s WORD? (Rom 12:2; Col 3:1-10) Paul gives some concrete examples.
- The Manifestation of Change (Eph 4:25-5:7)
As your mind is being renewed by God’s Word and compelled by the love of Christ, you will displace the vices of the sin nature with virtues of Christ-likeness as summarized below.
J.R. Miller, in The Glory of the Commonplace, wrote the following concerning gospel-driven transformation:
Religion is not merely a matter of creed and profession, or of church-going and public worship; it is far more a matter of daily life. It is not how we behave on Sundays, nor the kind of creed we hold, nor the devoutness of our worship–it is the way we act at home, in school, in business, in society, in our associations with others. It is vitally important that all who profess Christ–shall manifest Christ’s beauty in their life and character … ’Whoever says he abides in Christ, ought to walk & conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself.’ 1 John 2:6
In dealing with your own sin and in counseling others, are you labeling sins biblically and dealing with them specifically (Col 3:5)? Having described what a transformed life looks like, Paul then points to the one who alone manifested perfection in this life.
Bryan Gaines is Pastor of Family Discipleship at Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas. He regularly teaches classes to encourage and equip parents, works in the Student Ministry, leads an adult Care Group, and oversees Grace Preschool. Bryan also leads Grace Biblical Counseling, LLC. He is certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC).
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