Text: Ephesians 4:17-24
Rev. Kelly R. Jackson
3 Thoughts to consider:
For the New Year:
- God wants to change your walk (Vs. 17-19)
- God wants to change your ways (Vs. 20-22)
- God wants to change your understanding (Vs. 23-24)
Isn’t it always this way? December 31st rolls around and we begin taking inventory. We analyze all that went wrong over the past year and vow to make changes. However, during the course of our assessment, our list making and all of the things we find ourselves wanting to get rid of, we often forget the most important element of change: Self improvement. To change our circumstances we must accept the fact that we’ve played a role in those circumstances. And if we’re serious about self improvement, we must first start with ourselves. In order to see change, we must be changed.
In this text, we will see that God is interested in us as individuals. In the 3 areas listed at the top of the page, we’ll see that God intends to make us better as a people by making us better as individuals.
God wants to change our walk (Ephesians 4:17-19)
17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
In Verse 17, the Apostle Paul is calling on us to walk as Christians. The “other Gentiles” in this verse represents those still in the world. Until we’ve separated ourselves from the world’s way of living, we’re not prepared to eliminate anyone from our lives. If we aren’t separated spiritually from the world, how can we really know which people should stay in our lives and which should go? So here is the question that Christians must ask of themselves: Am I still walking according to my own thoughts and understanding?
Look at the word “vanity” in the text. We often assume that vanity means to focus on oneself superficially. However, vanity can also be our willingness to look the other way concerning our shortcomings. It can also be a willingness to believe that everyone else is a problem in our lives, but we have no blame.
At its core, vanity is self-serving and meaningless. As a reference, let’s look at Ecclesiastes 2:11: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of the spirit, and there was no profit under the sun”.
When we take things into our own hands, we receive the fruits of our own labor. When we come to the end of the year and the wrong people are in our lives, or the wrong circumstances exist in our lives, we have to take a look at the work that we’ve done with our own hands. And when we look at our lives and see no spiritual profit from what we’ve sown, we have to be accountable to ourselves.
It’s easy to blame others for bringing misery into our lives, but when we let them in, it’s hardly just their fault. It is the work that we’ve done according to our own understanding of what is and isn’t necessary in our lives. We’ve worked things for our own pleasure, but received no real profit from it.
Let’s look at Verse 18 of our text. To walk in our own way darkens our understanding, which means we’re rejecting knowledge. We become alienated (separated) from God. Many times in scripture when discussing the saved and unsaved, the words “light” and “darkness” are used. We are children of the light and we should have no communion with darkness, as it says in 2 Corinthians 6:14. If we are walking in darkness, we are without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We become ignorant, which simply means to not know. We have a “blindness of heart”, which means we’re aimlessly wandering according to our understanding, which leads to works of the flesh (lasciviousness) (Vs. 19). If God has really and truly called us out from such things, we ought to walk like it. We ought to talk like it. We ought to live like it.
God wants to change our ways (Ephesians 4:20-22)
20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
If we don’t know anything about Christ, we’ll most likely glory in behavior that isn’t Christ-like (Vs. 20). But as Christians, we’re supposed to have an intimate knowledge of Christ and His teachings. And knowing Christ means a change in our ways (Vs. 21-22).
Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Sounds like if we’re cleaning out our circle, we have to start with ourselves, right? To be new, we have to renounce our old ways and embrace a new Christian life. In order to do that, we must be honest about something: Do we really know the truth about Jesus Christ? Not asking are you saved, not asking do you believe that He rose on the third day and not asking are you faithful to the church. Do you really and truly know the truth about Jesus Christ, His example to us and how He wants and expects us to treat one another?
You can’t learn about Christ by word of mouth, you can only be introduced to Him that way. Learning comes from being taught, from studying and from experience. If you’re not in someone’s Bible class, you’re missing out on the truth about Jesus Christ. Sunday morning just isn’t enough. Once we really know Jesus, real change happens. Not through resolutions and promises made on New Year’s Eve, but through spiritual change and dedication to God. The fleshly man is corrupt, but the spiritual man is righteous in the eyes of God.
God wants to change our understanding (Ephesians 4:23-24)
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
What is it that we really understand about ourselves? As you head into this new year, the old you has to die. Before we kick people out of our lives, we have to kick some things about ourselves out. It’s so easy to say that we’re tired of putting up with some of the wrong people in our lives, but we always forget that someone has been putting up with us too. We always wanna kick people out, but we never consider the fact that we may need to be kicked out of some places too. We’re not so much that everybody needs us while we get to pick and choose who stays and who goes.
Having the wrong people in your life is just as much a reflection on you for allowing them to stay as it is on them for being who they are. There’s something in you that’s attracted to them! But God wants to help us with this by telling us to put off the old, fleshly man, which is corrupt, and put on a new creature in Christ that is righteous in His sight. A new man after God is created in holiness, not foolishness. A new man after God is created in righteousness, not selfishness.
God will renew your spirit if you allow Him to. There is a new man that we must put on before we can even understand why God has placed certain people in our lives. Everybody that you want gone shouldn’t be gone. Everybody that you want to stay shouldn’t be staying. Some people we want around because they never tell us we’re wrong. How is that growth? Some people are around because we think we can’t live without them. How is that trusting in God?
There are some people we can’t accept the truth about because we refuse to see them with spiritual eyes. They keep us blinded in foolishness. But when God opens your eyes, you will see just how destructive they are. When God renews your mind, you understand things in His way, not yours.
Going forward into this new year or any season of change, know that any true renewal starts with us. We can claim to be kicking all of the wrong people out of our lives for all we want, but if we’re still the same, we’ll replace those people with the same types of people. Allow God to clean you up first. Before you take inventory of the people in your life, take inventory of yourself.
Answer these questions:
- Who are you?
- What are you attracted to?
- Why are you attracted to those things or those people?
- How much of the damage in your life over the past year is self-inflicted?
The Word of God says in James 4:7 to resist the devil and he will flee. These are instructions for us as individuals. It doesn’t call for us to attack the devil or attempt to throw him out on our own. The instructions require us to work on ourselves. It requires us to resist the devil by standing on the Word of God, and if we do so, the devil will flee.
God wants us preparing, not planning. He already has the plan. We just need to be prepared to receive it. We have to set our minds to trust the plans that He has made for us. Psalms 37:23 says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord: and he delighteth in his way”. What am I saying? Well, if we work on ourselves and look to be better people through Christ, we won’t have to kick anyone out of our lives. The wrong people will leave on their own.