Off with the Old

"Are you guys for real?"

A teenager asked this of a small group of other teens who used to meet a couple times a month for Bible study and prayer.  A newer Christian, this young man said in five words what it takes many Christians years to discover -- that what they proclaim does not match how they behave.

When Paul wrote the section we call Ephesians 4:17-32, he knew this mismatch was happening within the congregations who would receive his letter.  So he used the metaphor of taking off an old garment and replacing it with a new one.  In the same way, when someone gives their life to Christ and receives the salvation he offers, they are called to take off their old way of living and adopt a new one, in order to "be like God" (v. 24).

Looking at Paul's list of sins is certainly sobering: falsehoods, anger, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and malice.  Scroll through Twitter for ten minutes and you'll most of these on display, and even cheered on in comments and even worse, "retweets."

But when we put on the new clothing that is a life saved and redeemed in Christ, we are called to move beyond all these destructive habits and become an agent of healing and peace.  Unfortunately, this new life can't be somehow combined with the old.  Disgusting food can't be made delicious with good seasoning.  New life in Christ matures gradually, but we're not excused to hang on to some of our sin while also trying to mature in Christ.  

Two prevalent ways of thinking emerge from this combination:
1) Hedonism.  God wants us to have abundant, joyful lives.  Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  But Hedonism takes that too far, making pleasure the chief end of our lives.  The Hedonist becomes to preoccupied with feeling good and avoiding pain that they fail to process their own grief and even cut off relationships that become difficult.  

2) Humanism.  Jesus died for the sake the world he loves.  Human beings are made in the image of God.  These are biblical truths.  But when combined with our sinful pride, they quickly feed Humanism, a belief that human beings need no higher power than themselves to find personal fulfillment or to heal the world.  Human distorts the Psalm 8 awe-inspiring revelation of human nature as nearly divine, and just goes ahead and promotes humans to divine status.  

Hedonism and Humanism are so prevalent in our culture, including the Church, that we often don't even notice them.  Nevertheless, they are characteristic of the "old self," and we are called daily to put off the old and put on the new.  

Reflect:
1) Where do you see Hedonism in modern America?
2) Where do you see Humanism in modern America?
3) Do you think some Christians merely add a "sprinkle of Jesus" to their otherwise secular lives?  What does that look like?  What is the result?
4) If you fully put off your old life and put on new life in Christ, what would you be leaving behind?  How do you feel about leaving your "old self" behind?

  

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