High Maintenance Christianity: Renewal by 'Exfoliation'
- Tuesday, December 09, 2003
In the New American Standard Bible, Ephesians 4:17ff is headed as The Christian’s Walk. The NIV heads it with Living as Children of Light and the New King James Version titles it The New Man. Interesting titles, especially considering that Paul focuses on those things which occur when we live the sinner’s life, live as children of darkness and as the old man. Read carefully what Paul so vehemently warns against:
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. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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; 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. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin"; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Living as the Gentiles means “living as pagans.” Before we came to Christ we were pagans. The “futility of their thinking” is described in the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon as being “devoid of truth and appropriateness.” Just as skin dies, becomes calloused or hardened so do the hearts of pagans. Our previous lives are ugly to look at, certainly ugly to remember.
But, Paul essentially says that you decided you didn’t want to live this way. You decided you wanted to exfoliate! Read these words again: 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…”
Notice that Paul said, “which is being corrupted.” Even as believers, it’s easy to become hard again, to find our spiritual skin needing a good exfoliation. We are not immune from temptation. Living in the world (not of the world, but in it) we attract so many of its impurities.
So then, how do we exfoliate spiritually? Look again at what Paul wrote:
1. Do not let your heart be hardened (calloused).
2. Do not lose all sensitivity (to the knowledge given by the Spirit).
3. Do not give yourself over to sensuality (lust, immorality, etc.).
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