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Ephesians 4:20-24

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.22 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
(Ephesians 4:20-24 NIV)

Yesterday, Paul insisted that his readers (the Ephesian church – and us) not live like the rest of the world.  He pointed out the futility of their thinking, and how it ultimately leads to selfish ambition, chasing after depravity, and greed.

Today, Paul reminds us that we were not taught to live that way when we came to Christ.

So what did Paul teach the Ephesians?  Verses 22 and 24 tell us to “put off” and “put on”.  Paul uses the analogy of changing clothes – to lay aside our old, dirty clothes of sin and selfishness, and to put on the new, clean clothes of God’s righteousness and holiness.

Notice that Paul talks about a transformation that takes place after the “put off” and before the “put on”.  It’s not a physical transformation, like taking a bath or a shower, as we might guess.  Instead, it’s a spiritual transformation, being made new in the attitude of our minds.

So what does it mean to be made new in the attitude of our minds?  Vine’s Bible Dictionary provides clear insight:

The “renewal” here mentioned is not that of the mind itself in its natural powers of memory, judgment and perception, but “the spirit of the mind,” which, under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, directs its bent and energies Godward in the enjoyment of “fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,” and of the fulfillment of the will of God.
(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words entry for “renew” in context of Ephesians 4:23,
http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G365&t=NIV)

As we further investigate this renewal, this being made new in the attitude of our minds, several points must be brought forth from the original Greek language that Paul used to write this letter:

  • The Greek word for “renew” is a verb, which indicates action or process.  The NIV Bible translates this word into the phrase “to be made new”.
  • The Greek word for “renew” is in the present tense, which means that it happens now, and continues to take place.  This is not a “once and done forever” event – it is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment process.
  • The Greek word for “renew” is in the passive voice, which tells us that this renewing is not something that we do, but something done to us by by an outside force, by God, through God’s Holy Spirit living in us.

Note that this renewing by the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast to our old self mentioned in verse 22, as well as in verses 17-19.  In our old self, our mind is being corrupted, not renewed, and it has a history, and it is something we do to ourselves.

This renewing does not mean that God takes away all our sinful desires.  As long as we are on this earth, we will have to fight the battle of temptation and sin.  But it does mean that God will renew our minds if we give His Holy Spirit the time and space to do so.  God uses His Word, the Bible, and prayer (conversation with God), and intentional time away from our jam-packed schedules to renew and refresh us in every area of our life.

May you carve out some time for Him today – and find in the Lord an oasis in the dry and weary journey of life.

Blessings,
~kevin

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