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Renew Your Mind, Reset Your Thoughts (Ephesians 4:17-24)

Ephesians 4:17–24 - 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

 

What does today’s passage say?

In today's passage, Paul urges believers not to continue living as those without the true knowledge of God do (vv. 17-19). Their thinking is empty, and they pursue impure desires that never satisfy but only lead to further darkness and separation from God. Rather, the Ephesians had learned about Jesus, so they should continue deepening their understanding of His truth, since He embodies righteousness and holiness (vv. 20-21). And they should allow the Holy Spirit to powerfully renew their thought-patterns and self-perception, rejecting sinful ways of thinking and acting (vv. 22-24). This inner renewal would transform their lifestyle to match Christ's holy character instead of copying the futile ways of their surrounding culture.

 

How can I apply Ephesians 4:17-24 to my life?

How should followers of Jesus Christ live differently than the world around them? Today, Paul gives us some powerful principles for living a life that honors God and reflects His righteousness to those trapped in darkness. Paul warns believers that we must no longer walk as unbelievers do - in the futility of their thinking and the ignorance of their hearts. Because they are cut off from the life of God, their lives descend into greater emptiness and impurity even as they futilely chase after fleeting pleasures. In contrast, the truth about life and godliness resides in Jesus alone. As His disciples, we must continue to deepen our understanding of Christ through studying Scripture. We must also cooperate with the ongoing renewal work the Holy Spirit wants to do in our minds and self-perception. Our conduct flows out of our thought-patterns. As we embrace kingdom values and God’s perspective on reality, our lifestyle is transformed into one characterized by righteousness and holiness. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

1.    Do Not Walk God in the Futility of Your Mind as Those Without God Do (vv. 17-19): Paul's exhortation calls us to ponder the stark contrast between the mindset of unbelievers and followers of Christ. Those without the light of the gospel walk in the emptiness of their thinking, descending ever deeper into the mire of darkened understanding and callous, sensual hearts. How tragic that ignorance of God's truth leads to the futility of chasing fleshly lusts that promise satisfaction but deliver only greater emptiness! What a wake-up call for believers! We must be vigilant against subtly adopting the futile thought patterns drummed into us by the world's value system. Immorality should utterly appall us, yet how easy to justify little compromises here and there. Greed! An epidemic disease even in the church, yet we excuse our lust for more in the name of "providing for our families." Let us root out any hints of participating in the vulgar, crude, obscene speech which has become our culture's norm. As those raised up with Christ, we must let His words and His Spirit radically transform our inner lives. Pursue purity. Train your mind on whatever lifts your gaze to the praiseworthy and the noble. Walk by the Spirit, firmly rejecting the flesh's deception. Our minds must be renewed if our lives are to shine as light to a darkened world (Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:1-2; James 1:14-15).


Food for Thought: What specific attitudes or thought patterns of our culture do you struggle to reject? Ask God to show you any areas of compromise or rationalization that grieve His Spirit.


2.    Continue to Learn About Jesus Because the Truth Is in Him (vv. 20-21): In contrast to the futility of unbelieving thought, Paul says believers have learned Christ. This learning is an ongoing process. The truth about life and godliness resides in Jesus, so we as disciples must continually deepen our understanding of His character and teaching. Unlike the world’s deception, what we learn from and about Christ will never disappoint us or lead us astray. Make knowing the Lord Jesus your number one priority! Seek Him through studying Scripture, which testifies about Him. Spend time in His living Word, asking for insight into His nature, His ways, His priorities. Pray over the accounts of His earthly ministry, allowing them to correct, inspire and transform you. Ask the Holy Spirit to imprint Christ’s life on your inner being. Talk with godly friends about their walk with the Lord. As you behold Jesus, you will start to reflect His image in your attitudes, thoughts and actions. He alone is the perfect model for living in true righteousness and holiness. Do not be content with stale, second-hand knowledge about Him. Continue learning Christ Himself (John 5:39, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Philippians 3:10).


Food for Thought: What dedicated time can you set aside this week to studying one of the Gospels? Ask God to use His Word to increase your personal knowledge of, and love for, Jesus.


3.    Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind and Put on the New Self, Created in Righteousness and Holiness (vv. 22-24): Living the Christian life requires an internal renewal by the Holy Spirit in our thought-patterns and worldviews. Our minds need continual cleansing from the toxic waste dumped in by the world’s flawed philosophies and value systems. As we soak in Scriptural truth, the Spirit renews and transforms how we process life. We begin reacting to situations and relationships from a kingdom perspective rather than simply defaulting to our natural responses. This inner renewal manifests in a growing righteousness and holiness as our conduct aligns with our transformed minds. Seek out Biblical teaching, take every thought captive to Christ, and relinquish sinful attitudes. Make no excuses for pet sins but nail them to the cross daily. Understanding your identity in Christ as a new creation is key to putting off the old ways and putting on righteous, God-honoring behavior. Reprogram your mind to embrace God’s perspectives about yourself, your mission in life, and your use of time/talents. The Holy Spirit wishes to restore the image of God in you! Yield to Him; seek to shine ever more brightly as an authentic reflection of Jesus’ character to all those around you (Romans 6:11, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Colossians 3:10).


Food for Thought: What needs to change in your thought patterns or self-perception for you to live more fully as the new self that God created you to be? Are there sinful mindsets He wants to renew this week?


This powerful passage challenges us to break free from futile worldly thinking and embrace the ongoing renewal only God’s Spirit can bring. As we reject conformity to world, we must set our minds on gaining deeper insight into Christ’s nature and priorities through studying Scripture. We have the high calling of reflecting Jesus’ righteousness in all our conduct. But this requires a reprogramming of our thought-patterns and self-perception to align with kingdom values. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, followers of Jesus are freed from walking in futility. Instead, our minds and lives display God’s light and beauty to all around us.

 

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that You would sharpen my awareness of any thought-patterns in my life that reflect worldly values rather than Your truth. Expose any rationalization or compromise that allows impurity to taint my mind and conduct. Increase my hunger to continually learn more about Christ through studying Your Word. Flood my heart with love and passion for Jesus, so that I embrace His ways completely. Holy Spirit, renew and transform me. Reprogram my self-perception and responses to be more like my Savior. Make me a clear reflection of Your righteousness in all I say and do. Conform every aspect of my lifestyle to true righteousness and holiness.

I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Ephesians 4:23 – “and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

 

 

With His Blessings,

Pastor Corby

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