Change is hard.
There are no two ways about it. We celebrate people who successfully make a positive change in life because—change is hard! And yet, sometimes we focus too much on those three little words when perhaps three other words are better: Jesus changed me. Suddenly, we’re not drawn to a difficulty, but an experience!
As Paul finishes Ephesians chapter 4, he details the changes we should see as believers. In verses 22-24, he’s told the Ephesians they are to put off the old self and put on the new. They are to “stop walking as the Gentiles do” (4:17) and, instead, live differently—but the reason is Jesus. Not just the idea of Jesus. Not just hearing about and believing in Jesus—but actually having an experience with Jesus that makes a difference.
Isn’t the power of experience incredible? The experience of jumping off a diving board the first time quells a child’s fears so he or she can spend the rest of their day at the pool having a blast! The experience of speaking in public for the first time can remove stage fright from an otherwise shy individual. Even bad experiences shape the things that cause us to fear and be anxious. There’s no doubt experience has a lasting impact.
With that understanding, take a look at Ephesians 4:25-32:
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Did you catch the impact? Did you notice the difference that Jesus is to make in the life of a believer? Falsehood is gone. Sinning out of anger is gone. Thievery is gone. Foul talk is gone. There’s a transformation—from bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander, to kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. But notice the why at the end fo the chapter… it’s because of an experience: “as God in Christ forgave you.”
Our earthly relationships are often poorer because of the experiences we’ve shared with other people. We have a history. We have pet peeves. We have annoyances. We have political views. We have all sorts of things that can keep us apart (and will give the devil an opportunity!, vs. 27).
As a Jesus follower, you have an experience that supersedes all of this. I want to encourage you to take a few moments and read through these verse slowly. Think about which portions describe you. Are your descriptions based on an experience with Jesus… or do you notice that you’re more easily described based on experiences with other people?
(Go ahead. Reread those verses slowly right now.)
When we have a real experience with Jesus. Real changes take place. Sentimentalized religion may feel good, but it doesn’t help our relationships because it isn’t grounded in the relationship—an experience—with Jesus.
Paul said, “Take off the old self, put on the new.” The way we treat each other will show us whether we’ve done that or not.
Laura and I are teaching Colson to pray. During at least one of the prayer times throughout the day, I don’t lead him in a short ‘nursery rhyme’ prayer. Instead, we say a short prayer that always includes these word, “Help us to love you and each other better.” If we’re going to love each other better, then Ephesians 4:25-32 really ought to describe us.
Perhaps a good addition to that prayer would be, “Help us to take off our old self, and put on the new.” (You know, just so we’re always reminded of the experience!)
Yes—I think we’ll try that. I invite you to do the same.