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Monday
August 26th, 2019

gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

When we were growing up, our dad had several old t-shirts, so thin they hardly covered anything. Our parents were both from the ‘hills’ so there were also elements of our everyday culture that seemed normal, but I learned later they’re not acceptable behavior - for instance, sneaking in 4 or 6 or however many of us kids there were at the time to the drive-in movie. 

In a study of the Book of Ephesians, we’ve spent several weeks on matters of church unity. Now in chapter 4, Paul’s focus shifts to church purity, with some of the verses sounding a lot like Romans chapter 1. Some scriptures are for everyone, while others don’t apply to us until we begin the first steps of believing on Christ. 

Since the early days of their Christian life, people in ancient churches had continued to breathe in the corrupt atmosphere of Roman, Greek and other surrounding cultures. Paul elaborated on those influences: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed” (Ephesians 4:19). 

Further, those in their environment had no sense of purpose, they were alienated from God, and their understanding darkened, past the point of moral feeling. Anytime we immerse ourselves in music, movies and other media of a world without Christ, we begin to take on its characteristics. Today’s more sophisticated sensuality seems worse than when I was young and constantly snapped my fingers, trying to emulate an actor I thought was cool when he did that. 

But Paul holds forth a life “in Christ” that can be so much different. This weekend we attended a conference on prayer, where the leader read three times the account of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). One phrase that stood out was when the beggar threw aside his cloak and jumped to his feet. I once laid my letter jacket on a bleacher seat, but when I returned it was gone - no matter how hard I looked with my (functioning) eyes. A blind man might not have been able to return to a garment, so I imagine until that moment he’d kept anything of value within reach. Yet when Jesus called, the garment became secondary and a hindrance to reaching what he desired. 

In the same way, Paul urged, “put off your old man, and … be renewed in your mind and … be clothed with the new man” (Ephesians 4:22). He wrote in a parallel passage, “Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old way of life with its deeds, and have put on the new man which is renewed” (Colossians 3:9-10). 

Paul further said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And to the church at Rome he urged, “Continue to be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Growth is a process, but old clothes first must be cast off and new clothing donned. 

 When we come to Jesus, we become new persons. But how does that happen – in a pagan world, is it possible to live a life that looks like Christ? Should we try harder, or trust more? St. Thomas Aquinas indicated it’s not an either/or situation, but a both/and. Anyone who decides to throw off his old life will require daily discipleship by the Spirit, but also discipline to keep from slipping back into old habits. Like my dad’s old t-shirts, some things may need to be thrown away before they can be replaced with a new wardrobe. Only then will we “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). 

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