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Changing a former way of life

July 12, 2022
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Daily Scripture

Ephesians 4:20-24

20 But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. 21 Since you really listened to him and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, 22 change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. 23 Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

We often see our culture as given to short-term thinking, seeking instant gratification. When we choose that approach, it can feel as though giving up “a former way of life” means getting rid of all of life’s fun. The apostles saw it very differently. They were convinced that the new mind-set God offers us is not at all meant to squelch true joy in life. It rescues us from “deceitful desires” and makes genuine joy truly and lastingly possible.

  • Ephesians 4:19 said being people “who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good” is what we don’t learn from Christ. In what ways do you see that approach to life echoed in many parts of today’s popular entertainment and media cultures? Have you ever sensed that those constantly transmitted messages have shaped your thinking more than you intended or realized?
  • “Paul sees growth as increasing in discernment and discretion, which helps believers avoid being taken in by false shortcuts to growth….Personal growth and community growth work together here so that mature believers contribute to a mature church.” * Resurrection offers community resources to nurture their members’ spiritual growth through Recovery ministries and small groups. Don’t try to change a former way of life all by yourself!
Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you that your Spirit works within me, and through my brothers and sisters on the journey of faith. Keep guiding me toward your way of life. Amen.

GPS Insights

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

I’ve told stories here before of my life in my early 20s, moving up to Kansas City without a paying job for a beautiful woman who happened to work for Church of the Resurrection. (We’ve been married almost 15 years now.) Stories of when I didn’t have much and chased my dreams are endearing. Stories of my life now, when Janelle and I are further along in our careers and comfortable financially, aren’t quite as exciting. Rather than scrimp and save for a guitar so I could lead worship, I could easily buy one now—to sit next to the other six guitars at home. (Janelle says I might have a problem.) It’s just not as exciting to hear about a time when I can, within reason, do whatever I want.

We hear a lot about the believers in ancient Ephesus, to whom Paul’s letter was written, but I’d never heard much about the historical context, so here we go! Before Paul wrote his letter to Ephesus in about 60 AD, Ephesus had recently become a very prosperous port town and cultural center. In 129 BC, Ephesus officially joined the Roman Empire and became the seat for the local Roman governor. With that change came an influx of money. Most of the ruins we see in Ephesus today, like the amphitheater, the Library of Celsus, and the aqueducts, were built in that time. With those changes came the infrastructure for a stronger economy. In 43 AD, a new business district opened to handle the massive amount of trade goods coming in through the port. Many of the residents of Ephesus found themselves quite wealthy and comfortable in that time, perhaps still remembering the times when the citizens there struggled, but nonetheless doing quite well financially.

Much like the situation I’m finding myself in now that I’m 40 instead of in my 20s, the citizens of Ephesus found that they had the means to do anything, within reason. And when you can do anything, nothing’s really as exciting anymore. That’s a situation a lot of us in America find ourselves in. Even if we’re struggling financially, we have more options than any generation before us. Rather than plan a night out to see a movie we’re looking forward to, we have hundreds of movies on our watch lists on our streaming services. Rather than buy an album and rush home to listen to it, we have countless songs (or podcasts, or audio plays, or any other form of audio entertainment you can think of) on powerful computers that sit in our pockets. We’re in a Renaissance of entertainment and leisure.

And let’s not forget that this crowd in Ephesus that was discovering Jesus was not a horde of godless barbarians. Many were religious before finding Jesus. But the religion existed in the context of wealth and excess. For them, comfort was an integral part of the religion—and discomfort and financial liabilities became a part of the new way of life they were learning to live in Jesus.

When we read Paul’s words, that the Ephesians “who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good” needed to repent, we tend to think of wild jetsetters and unrepentant hedonists. But we don’t tend to think of ourselves. And if we do, we like to think that being religious saves us from being the people Paul was writing to in this letter. Much like the early believers in Ephesus, discomfort and financial liabilities might be something we need to grow in our walk with Christ. Believe me, I get how scary that is. I still like to think of myself as that broke twenty-something kid who chases his dreams. But if I’m honest, I haven’t been that kid in a long time. God’s given me the means to do more, and that means I actually have to seek out how to do more with the gifts I’ve been given.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Timothy Gombis, study note on Ephesians 4:14, 16 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 369 NT.