It had all been rather subtle. I’d meet my colleagues for drinks one night, where we’d rant and swear about work and all the difficult people. The next night I’d be having Bible study, sharing about the need to show compassion and kindness. I’d spend Sundays singing worship songs, and Mondays whining about work deadlines. Some would call it “context switching”. I called it compartmentalising.
At the root of this compartmentalising was my desire to be seen as “open-minded” and not a “stuffy” Christian. At the same time, I felt that my faith and beliefs were “personal” and only relevant within the church context. These untruths eventually led me to segregate my worldly lifestyle from my walk of faith. But I knew deep down that holding on to these opposing approaches to life didn’t make sense.
In Ephesians 4:17-32, Paul shows us the stark contrast between the life before and after salvation. From the moment we believe in Jesus, we’re given a clean slate and a new direction. And so, in receiving this new life, we need to “put off [our] old self” and “put on the new self” (vv. 22-24).
Imagine getting a brand-new outfit. Would you put on the new outfit without first taking off the old one and cleaning up? After that, would you even need to keep your old rags? If you’re like me, perhaps you might think, “Maybe I still want the old rags because they’re comfortable.” And that’s the struggle we often face—this new life feels restrictive, so we fall back on our old habits and patterns.
Which is why, in exhorting us to walk in our new lives, Paul doesn’t tell us to “just do it”. Instead, he brings us back first to our newfound identity in Jesus (vv. 20-21). Knowing who we are and to whom we belong, changes our outlook and direction. Because of Jesus’s work on the cross, we’ve undergone a tremendous transformation—from slaves to sin to children of God.
As God’s children, we’re given the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and gives us a new mindset (v. 23) so that we can see the futility of our old ways, and how our indulgences hinder us from experiencing the true pleasures from God (vv. 18-19).
Think about the restless feeling we get when we try to occupy ourselves with goals or activities that never fully satisfy. This is the Spirit at work. And as Ephesians 4:30 reminds us, we shouldn’t grieve the Spirit by going against the good that He teaches us to embrace. Instead, we should look to the Spirit, our advocate (John 14:16-17, 26), who enables us to respond to God’s calling.
With our new identity and the help of our advocate, we can let go of the unhealthy need to prove ourselves and win the approval of the world. Instead of lying out of pride or fear, we can speak truthfully and remain secure (v. 25), knowing who we are in Jesus. Instead of retaliating in anger when wronged (v. 26), we can look to Jesus’s compassion and forgiveness for those who wronged Him and ask Him to help us do the same (vv. 31-32).
After I became convicted of my double life, I asked God to help me fight my urge to sin. Even though I didn’t always get it right, I am reminded to persevere because of this truth: our being in Christ means that He continues to renew our minds, so that we will learn to desire and choose what is good, and live the holy life He has promised.
—Hannah Go, Philippines
Questions for reflection
Father, I praise You for the new life You’ve given me through Jesus. Forgive me for the times when I’ve been unwilling to give up my old life. Help me see that the new life You’ve given me is far better than anything I’m leaving behind! Renew my mind and attitude, that I may live a life marked by truth and purity.
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