Chapter 4:17-24 (ESV) - 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.
Question to consider: Why does Paul call the minds of the Gentiles futile?
On the surface, it seems strange that Paul would tell a bunch of Gentiles to stop living like Gentiles. How can they stop being who they are? However, the Ephesians had become something different. At their baptism, they died to their old way of life and were raised up with Christ to walk in newness of life as Christ’s own people. The Holy Spirit had taken their heart of stone and had given them a heart of flesh.
The Gentiles lived lives according to the flesh, doing what gave them pleasure in this world without any consideration for God, for they were alienated from Him. Paul called it futile because all of their pursuits were for things that had no lasting value. They had completely given themselves over to sensuality, impurity and greed.
Peter would give the same exhortation to the Hellenistic Jews scattered throughout Asia Minor in his first epistle a few years later, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11-12)
Both Peter and Paul could give the same sermon in our churches today. Put off your old self and be renewed in the spirit of your minds! The world identifies with their sin and pursues things that have no lasting value, but you have put on Christ! You were baptized into His kingdom and created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness so start living like it.
We are still going to stumble and sin, but we no longer live for it. Praise God that we can confess our sin, and He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness! I guarantee that if you live this way, there will be pushback. People will be surprised when you no longer wish to join them in their sin, and they may malign you for it out of a guilty conscience, but they will recognize you belong to Christ, and we can continue to pray that one day they will belong to Him as well.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for making us a new creation that desires to live for the things that please You. Help us to build one another up in the faith so that we may keep from stumbling. We look forward to the day when Christ returns and puts an end to sin and death. Amen.