Ephesians 4: 17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds…19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ!…22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
The picture you see is what we call the “covenant” triangle. It describes graphically what the apostle Paul is getting at in our passage for today.
Way back in the Old Testament, God the Father made a covenant with the people Israel. He was their God and they were his people. Hence, the people had an “identity” as children of God. That identity was given as an act of God’s grace. The people did not earn it – anymore than you or I earn our place as God’s children. It is a gift of God through Jesus Christ.
And as children of God, the people were expected to bring their lives into “obedience” – into alignment with God’s will, God’s ways, God’s purposes. They were not to continue in their former ways of life. Paul put it this way:
22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul was not holding the people accountable for “obedience” because he was a prude, a kill-joy, a bigot, or a closed-minded hater. He held them accountable because obedience is the path to life. Real life. Fruitful life. God’s ways provide crucial boundaries/limits that give people space to thrive as our Creator intended.
Obedience leads to life.
Seems simple enough, right? But we have fundamental problem. Left to us, we would most often choose to live differently than the ways God prescribes. We would rather work than rest. We would rather consume than give generously. We would rather be promiscuous than chaste.
In other words, we would rather live as orphans, doing things our own way, than to live as children of God who follow the ways of our heavenly Father. This is most certainly true of me, and I suspect you as well. Why? Because this is a problem common to all of humanity. It’s called “sin”.
But the good news is that Jesus sent to us the Holy Spirit when he ascended to heaven to be with the Father. The Holy Spirit, the presence of God that lives in all believers, gives us the grace we need to live in “obedience”. Therein lies our hope – for life.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the identity you give to us a your children, through Jesus Christ. Give us grace to claim our identity in such a way as it leads us to obedience. And life. Amen.