Transformation, Not Improvement

Ephesians 4:17, 22-24; 5:8-11

Anyone who wants to become an athlete must consider the requirements very carefully to be successful. There are at least three important things that are necessary: commitment, discipline and a change of way of life.

These requirements also apply for a soldier, a politician, in marriage and for a Christian!

Commitment – The person who is half committed to a sport or a vocation cannot be successful. He is wasting his time even though he may be having some fun. When there is no commitment in a marriage, that union will not succeed and it will become dysfunctional and fail.

It takes a total commitment to God and His Son Jesus for a person to become a Christian, not a conditional or part-time commitment.

Discipline – A disciplined life is a successful life. An undisciplined person will not succeed in life and usually will blame others for his or her plight. An undisciplined Christian will not be able to rest in God but will wander in the wilderness of religion and doctrines.

Way of life – The person who is unwilling to change his or her way of life, to let go of or exchange some things so that other new and better things can replace them, is like a car stuck in ice or sand, spinning its wheels for nothing.

The Christian who has one foot in the Word of God and the other foot in the world is like that car, going nowhere. The letter l makes all the difference, at least in English: “Word” vs. “world”.

Jesus described such a person this way: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold not hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)

To the believers in Ephesus, Apostle Paul wrote: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.”

With this verse, Apostle Paul began his appeal for a new morality, a new way of life. “In the Lord” means “by the authority of the Lord and divine inspiration.” He urges Christian believers to put off every trace of their past life, as if they were dirty clothes, and put on new and clean ones.

“You must no longer live as the Gentiles do.” They were no longer Gentiles (unbelievers); they were Christians now. There should have been a corresponding change in their lives.

Paul saw the Christ-less world of the nations sinking deeper and deeper in sin and degradation and named seven terrible characteristics they had: aimless, blind, ungodly, shameless, immoral, indecent, and greedy. Their sin created an enormous appetite for more of the same. How different this way of life was from the life of Christ whom they had come to know and love!

The Bible is very clear that when we come to know Christ and are born again we must “put off our old self.” This means all that a person was before his conversion. The old lifestyle must be replaced by a new and pure way of life, a complete change in our thinking, a change from impurity to holiness, holiness of thought and life, not the way we see things but the way God sees us and our lives.

In verses 23 and 24 we read: “To be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” After naming some of the obvious sins, Paul says: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.”

Apostle Paul continues in chapter 5, instructing believers to “be imitators of God” (vs. 1) and to be holy, clean: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person, such a man is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (vss. 3-5)

Some say that morals are a matter of the culture in which we live, and since premarital, extramarital, and gay sex are accepted in our culture, religious leaders may accept and even promote this idea of freedom to please the flesh without shame or fear.

In the Bible, believers are strongly warned to have no part in ungodly behaviour. To do so is to dishonour God and the name of Christ, to destroy other lives, to ruin one’s own testimony, and to bring retribution and death. In Proverbs 6:27, we read: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?”

Apostle Paul reminds the believers what they were before they believed in Jesus: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light of the Lord. Live as children of light.” (v. 8)

Here we have the contrast between light and darkness. Those who belong to Jesus have received His light and now they must reflect and introduce this light where there is darkness. Thomas Carlyle wrote: “The Christian must be consumed with the infinite Beauty of Holiness and the infinite Damnability of sin.”

Yes, there are many who claim to be Christians, who may even be leaders who have one foot in the Word and the other in the world and may be doing things that are sinful or wrong according to the Word of God.

But you are a child of light! Those who live in God’s light produce the fruit of moral, ethical and holy character. Those who live in darkness do not!

Please remember what God said through Jeremiah: “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

What should we do then? Verses 10 and 11 give the answer: “Find out what pleases God and have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

What God wants is life transformation rather than moral improvement.

Pastor Joseph Hovsepian