"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
My community and family have been reading Ephesians. A few Sundays ago, we looked at the passage above and asked:
“What does this teach us about God?”
“What does this teach us about mankind/ourselves?”
“Is there an example to follow for the way we live?”
Ephesians was written to the saints in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1). When Paul says, “...you must no longer walk as the Gentiles...alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” he is speaking to followers of Jesus. We cling to grace proclaiming, “it’s by grace I’ve been saved…” (Ephesians 2:8). But, then we live a life of “callous, hard hearts” that are not beating with thankfulness for grace but that function alienated from the rich life Jesus died to give us...functioning in our feeble performance that is fueled by a hard, callous heart.
I do this all the time. I didn’t think that I did. I would have read this passage like, “Whew, glad my heart is good.” But, the more I spend time in prayer I realize my need and that my heart is prone to wander even while I’m singing that lyric in church.
What stands out to me the most in this passage is the reason He gives them when telling them not to live like people who don’t know God: “But that is not the way you learned Christ.” I love that it isn’t: “But that is not the facts you know about God.” Or “But, that isn’t the list of things you should or shouldn’t do that you think make up your faith.” Paul says, “But, that is not the way you learned Christ.”
Our buddy JR Vassar recently said, “Imagine you were a dancer. Every day you go to the studio and practice steps over and over. You spend hours learning choreography with no music. For too long we have taught people the steps of Christianity but not how to listen to the beautiful music of God’s voice.” For me, I know the days I walk apart from the rich life God has, and it is because I’m functioning like someone who doesn’t know God. I have my steps down, but I’m not abiding...dwelling, listening, talking to Jesus continually. I want to not simply learn about Jesus, I want to learn Jesus.
Here are a few things I do to abide:
Acknowledging God wherever you are. Someone hurts your feelings. Immediately in your heart, “Lord, give me wisdom. Remind me her words do not define me. Strengthen my heart with truth.” You’re overwhelmed with your to- do list. Immediately in your heart, “Lord, calm my heart. I breathe in joy and breathe out anxious thoughts. I breathe in grace and breathe out a task-oriented life.” (I actually breathe and do that one out loud sometimes. One day my kids will write a book with all they’ve seen. ha!) You take a moment to enjoy a sunset. Immediately in your heart, “Lord, you are good. Thank you for making all things new- including me.”
Take several moments a day to be still. Whether you are in an office, home, commute...stillness is more about your attitude and heart posture than location. Now zoning out in the middle of a meeting at work is not what I’m advocating. But, you can carve a few mins at your desk or take a walk to your car. Make that time about praying in your heart- pray on the armor of God, tell Jesus about your day, ask the Holy Spirit to help you abide so you bear the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, a full day retreat is amazing, but don’t put off abiding and stillness until the timing and location are ideal and perfect.
Renew your mind. We are all prone to religion instead of relationship. We all spend hours doing choreography without music. Read your Bible. Don’t try to live the Christian life without Christ. Have a great book on your desk, coffee table, kitchen counter, etc and read a page or 2 whenever you have a free minute.
I loved sharing what I’ve been reading. Would love to hear what you’ve been reading! Or, did anything stand out to you in the Ephesians verses? - Amy