Text: Ephesians 4:20-24 September 26. 2010.
1) Words of a friend: A friend once told me, “In my life time, I’ve seen a lot of things changed and I have been against most of them.” Perhaps he overreacted to changes, but most of us would agree that we don’t like changes either---especially if it involves altering our habits, attitude, lifestyle and values. This mentality spreads to the mindset of many Christians---I can be a Christian but I don’t have to change anything. That just doesn’t work.
2) Words of an apostle: In encouraging the early Christians to live like children of light, Apostle Paul reminded them of their filthy ways of life before they were saved. (Eph. 4:17-19) Then he tried to make his point that being followers of Christ. He said, “However, you did not come to know Christ that way (the old way). Surely you heard of him 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.” (-22) Christians can’t continue to live in the old way, they must change.
WHY IS CHANGE SO DIFFICULT?
1) It’s against human nature: Any change, especially if it involves change of our old human nature, is inherently difficult, if not impossible. We were all born with a corrupted sinful nature and we are so comfortable to live in that nature. Any attempt to change it is against that corrupt old nature. Our old nature will fight to stop any change.
2) It means admitting wrong: Whatever you may be doing, either you are driving, writing or working on a project, making a decision or anything else, if you need to change, that means whatever you have been doing is either wrong or at least not good or right. To many people, it is so hard to admit wrong or to admit that they had made a bad choice. All people are born with pride, some may call it protecting self-respect.
3) It means leaving comfort zone: Either change of a job or moving to a new school, change working environment or move to a new neighborhood, adjustment is difficult because it means we have to leave our comfort zone. It is difficult to leave people we know, friends we have, procedures we are accustomed to or environment we feel safe. Any change is hard and we tend to resist most of them.
4) It takes much self discipline: Take change drinking or smoking habits as example, it will take a lot of self discipline to make it work and many people are just not willing to make that effort or do the discipline. Change of more serious personal or character defects will take much more discipline and sacrifice to achieve desired results and most people are just not willing to do that.
WAYS TO FOSTER CHANGES: (Text: Ephesians 4:20-24)
1) Begin by learning the truth: “However, you did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (-21) Paul demanded that the early Christians need to change their ways of life first because they had heard of Jesus, and were taught in him according to the truth in Jesus. Few may claim innocent because of their ignorance, none may claim anything because they have been taught. God has written down his truth, doctrines and guidelines for our belief and practices, so we have no excuse to continue live in the old ways according to the sinful nature.
2) Then put off the old self: “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.” ()Putting off the old sinful and deceitful ways of life is the direction we all need to embark. It is not a one-shot deal, but a process of changing to achieve the goal. No real believer may continue to live in the old nature after he was taught of the truth and know what to do and not do. Putting-off-the-self means to crucify the self and to allow the Lord to be in control of our life. (Galatians 2:20)
3) And be made new in our mind: “To be made new in the attitude of your minds.) () This is about the internal changes we all need to have---changing the attitude and mindset. Our actions of life on the outside are the manifestation of our inner attitude and mindset. If we want to change the actions, from the old way of life, we need to change the inner attitude and mindset first to reflect the truth we were taught to live with. This can only be achieved by total surrender of our old self, and give Jesus the driver’s-seat so he can take charge of our continual renewal.
4) Finally put on the new self: “And to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” ()To put off the old self in to give way to put on the new self created to be like God. When we are humble and obedient to pour out our old self, then we will have room to receive the new self to be like God. This is also a process and it takes time to mature. To be like God is our ultimate goal of Christian growth and we can never fully or completely like God. But one day at a time and one thing at a time, if we faithfully follow the truth we have been taught, we are on the right direction to foster changes.
KINDS OF CHANGE WE NEED. Here are some examples.
1) Change the control center: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Paul was talking about the change he had after he surrendered his life to Christ: he as no longer in control of his life, but Christ had all the control of his life. Paul did that because he has faith that Christ knew him the best and loved him so much that Christ won’t do anything less than the best for his life. We all need to have this same faith in Christ as Paul did so we can relinquish the control of our life to Christ. Let Jesus takes the driver’s seat. Christ must be the first.
2) Change our visual focus: “So we fix our eye not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) all of us were born to see what is seen, things around us. But when we are born again, we have been given a better set of vision to see what is unseen. This visual ability can see things our mortal eyes cannot see. All the things we see with our mortal eyes are temporary, fleeting and have no eternal or spiritual value to match our spiritual life. If we can see the unseen, the eternal value, we will live our life, make our choices that promote our spiritual growth.
3) Change our nature of life: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Eph. 5:8) Paul is not talking about the outward way we live our life, he is talking about the nature of our life on the inside, changed from darkness to light. This is more than just our outward expression or action, it is about the nature of life we have. If we are still darkness on the inside, we can’t put on fake actions as light. But if we are born again in Christ as light, we will have natural flow of actions of light. Paul described this again in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old (darkness) has gone, the new (light) has come.”
Change our goal of life: “So we make it our goal
to please him, whether we are at home in this body or away from it.” (2 Cor.
5:9) In expressing his desire to be with the Lord, Paul realized the frail
nature of our bodily life in this world. He struggled on which way is better
for him to live. Then he came to conclusion that either it is life in this
body, or life without this body, he has one goal to life: to please Christ, to
make the Lord happy, to bring joy to His heart with his life. In our life, we
always try to please someone, our parents, teachers, classmates, coworkers, our
spouses, and the list goes on and on. We do this to make our life easy and
secure. But all these will be gone when we go to heaven. So, Paul is right:
please the Lord is
1) Facing the reality: All things are changing regardless if you like it or not. No one may stop the progress and all have to face the results of change. So, it is very important for all of us to make the best of changes. Don’t be afraid to change and don’t be upset when things and others have changed. Life is all about changes. Our attitude to change defines the quality of our life.
2) Face it for the better: Not all changes are good for life and not all changes are important. As people of God it is our goal to change our life to be fruitful, to live as light, to have eternal value and to please and glorify God. We are on a journey to heaven, so we need to continue change our purpose, value, way of life and the ultimately our destiny, from in this world to be with God.
3) Never too late to change: If you have never made a wise choice to put your faith in Jesus Christ, change your goal of life and the way you live, it is never too late. You can do all this today. Ask God to forgive your sins, ask Jesus to enter your heart and be the Lord of your life. You will see the great change you always want and can have if you are ready to accept Jesus today.