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DAY 1 – The Old Way
When we come to Jesus, we change. We are radically transformed. We move from death to life, from our old ways of living to our new. In the passage you read today, Paul insisted that the Ephesians needed to become new people and stop living as they once did. When Paul says “you must no longer live” he is describing repentance. The Greek word that we translate as repentance is metanoia, a word that means a total change of direction. Paul is saying, “You once walked this way, but now you need to do a full 180-degree turn and start walking in the other direction. You can live the way you once lived.”
And how did they once live? Like the Gentiles, they had mistaken patterns of thinking. In his sermon this week, Pastor Aaron Kunce used the words “intellectual futility” to describe the old way of thinking. (By the way, Gentiles here means Gentiles that have not become Christ followers. These are not the Gentiles Paul was talking about in earlier chapters.) Futility just means without purpose. Even their thoughts are without a higher purpose. They don’t have the illumination that knowing Jesus brings to your inner life. Their hearts are hardened. They no longer respond. They’ve lost all sense of direction. They are living life chasing after sensual pleasures. They are spiritually and morally numb.
Paul doesn’t say these things to make the believers in Ephesus feel proud or arrogant. After all, back in chapter 2 he reminds the Ephesians (and us) that we, too, were once dead in our sins. The patterns he describes are the ways that we once lived.
So, rather than arrogance, we should feel humility, gratitude for God’s grace, and a desire to walk in a new direction. In other places in the New Testament, Paul describes us as fleeing, or running away, from sin. God calls us to stop walking in the way we once were.
How are you doing with this? Are you walking in your old ways? Have you experienced a change of direction? If not, what is holding you back? Pray a prayer of repentance and ask the Holy Spirit to help you change direction.
DAY 2 – Learning Christ
Children are great at picking up new skills. They can speak additional languages with ease, they are able to learn to play
instruments, they are constantly expanding their knowledge of history and art and science. If you have had the pleasure
of watching a child grow up, acquiring new skills, it’s pretty incredible to see.
After we graduate we don’t always learn new skills. Many of us aren’t committed to lifelong learning. When we do learn,
we describe learning as mainly acquiring knowledge or skills. Rarely do we describe learning as “learning a person.”
That is exactly what Paul describes in this passage. The Ephesians were not just learning about Christianity or learning about Jesus, they were learning him. In the passage we read yesterday, Paul told us how not to walk. He expands on that today, reminding the Ephesians that when they learned Jesus, they learned a new way. Writer and professor Lionel Windsor describes the contrast between the old way and learning Jesus this way: “If we flip this around, we can see that learning Christ is about the opposite: having purpose and hope, thinking rightly, being connected to the life of God, knowing the truth, having soft hearts open to God’s correction, restraining our wrong desires, being shaped with new godly desires, and living pure lives. Learning Christ, in other words, is about the way we live our lives for the sake of Christ. It’s about learning who Christ is and what he has done for us, and it’s about having our heads, hearts, and hands shaped by these realities.”
Jesus transforms us. He is not content to leave us as we once were. As Pastor Aaron said in his message, our message to the
world isn’t about not being bad or asking people to change their ways. First and foremost, our message must always be,
“Have you met Jesus?”
The best way to change is to learn Jesus. The best way to change is to read the words of Jesus. The best way to change
is to imitate Jesus.
How closely are you following Jesus? Do you seek to imitate him? Are you actively “learning Jesus”?
DAY 3 – A New Attitude
When we move to take off our old ways on put on new ones, we need to experience a shift in our attitude. We need to adopt
an attitude like that of Christ. So now only do we change our behaviors (which Paul expands upon in the passage we read),
but we also need to change our attitude.
What does it mean “to be made new in the attitudes of your minds”? It means that we practice the renewal of our minds in addition to our behavior. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we renew the attitude of our minds, we transform into being able to think more and more in alignment with God. In The Message, Eugene Peterson describes this as a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”
Does this seem impossible to retrain your mind to think in new ways? The good news is that we don’t have to do this on our
own! The Holy Spirit works within us, renewing both hearts and minds. We work to identify areas where we need to change
our thinking, and we bring those requests to God.
We are comfortable in our attitudes and ways of thinking. They’re familiar. We can easily recognize them. A change of attitude can sound scary or daunting.
What is your attitude like when it comes to God changing you? Do you welcome the process? Does it frighten you? Do you wish it could be a faster process? Greg Ogden writes, “ To live in a way that is contrary to society, we need to submit ourselves to a lifetime of change under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Pray a prayer submitting yourself to a lifetime of change, and ask God to help transform the attitude of your mind.
DAY 4 – A New Self
Each year, in late summer, I have an up-close view of radical transformation. My children collect monarch caterpillars from
milkweed plants and put them into a mesh butterfly container to watch them grow. A monarch builds a beautiful, bright green cocoon with gold metallic spots around itself and begins its change. When a caterpillar is turning into a butterfly, it literally turns to goo and reforms itself into an entirely new creature. It’s a little gross to describe, but incredible to watch. When the newly formed butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it’s a brand-new creature. That old caterpillar doesn’t exist anymore. It was broken down to make something much more beautiful.
This transformation is a beautiful picture of what Jesus does for us. When we are taught Christ, we are taught about just such a transformation. Old things become new. The New Testament is filled with descriptions of what we are like after this metamorphosis. We have a new mind, will, heart, inheritance, relationship, power, knowledge, love, wisdom, understanding, citizenship, righteousness, etc. The list goes on and on! Everything about us is made new in
And so, we conduct ourselves differently. We have to figure out the right things to put on. Paul described all of the things we put off, but now we have to figure out what to put on.
I imagine that when those monarchs emerge from their places of transformation, they’re feeling a bit awkward in their new duds. That is the way we often feel when we’re in our own process of transformation. Things don’t quite fit the way they once did. We need to make some adjustments.
The process of transformation is slow. Some things change instantly when we begin to follow Christ, but many things take time. Growing into spiritual maturity is our own process of breaking down to emerge as a new creature. Be encouraged that even when it feels like your transformation is taking far too long, God is still at work, transforming you into a butterfly.
How do you need to join with God in this process of transformation? What is the Holy Spirit telling you to put off ? What new beliefs, attitudes, or practices do you need to put on?
DAY 5 – Maturity Together
Reread Ephesians 4:17-24
Today you are simply going to spend some time praying a prayer of repentance, to help the Holy Spirit guide you as you think through some things you might need to “put off ” to live out your calling in Christ. This prayer is taken from Phyllis Tickle’s book, Eastertide: Prayers for Lent through Easter.
Most holy and merciful Father: I confess to you that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word and deed; by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart, mind and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven. (Silence)
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit. (Silence)
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness:
…The pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life. (Silence) I confess to you, Lord.
…My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of others. (Silence) I confess to you, Lord.
…My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I. (Silence) I confess to you, Lord.
…My love of worldly goods and comforts, my dishonesty in daily life and work. (Silence) I confess to you, Lord.
Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to injustice and cruelty. (Silence) Accept my repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me. (Silence) Accept my repentance, Lord.
Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me. Favorably hear me for your mercy is great. Accomplish in me and in all your church the work of your salvation, That we may show forth your glory in the world. By the cross and passion of your Son, our Lord, Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection. Amen.
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