Ephesians 4:17 Now this I (Paul) affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 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! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 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.
It would seem there has been some back-sliding going on in the Ephesian church. People were falling back into old habits from their former lives rather than their new lives as followers of Jesus. I can relate.
When I read passages like this one I can be tempted to read it as, “Stop sinning!”. Well, if I could stop sinning I wouldn’t need Jesus. I’d just obey the rules and be righteous before God and all would be well. But the truth is that I can’t stop sinning… in my own strength. Trying harder isn’t the answer. What is the answer?
“You were taught to… be renewed in the spirit of your minds”
That Greek verb translated as “be renewed” is in the passive tense. It doesn’t mean we should get to work on renewing ourselves. It means we are on the receiving end of what someone else is doing in us. The Spirit of God is making us new from the inside out. God is the actor here. We are the recipients of his renewing grace, which empowers us to live more and more like Jesus.
Lord grant that we might be renewed by you to give you glory. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.