The Difference

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Do we look any different than the world?  As Christians, are we recognized for our love of others?  The scripture teaches we are to be radically changed by the love of God that has been poured into our hearts.  Are we?  I’m not so sure.

As I read the words of Paul to the Ephesians, I am convicted.  Does the old man still rear his ugly head?  We’ve been told to lay him aside and to put on the new man.  The new man is to look different. 

You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.

Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.

The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need.

You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk.

Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.

~Ephesians 4:22-32

So I’m wondering, how is it that we grieve the Holy Spirit?  In this passage the way we deal with others is evidence of the Holy Spirit within.  Our treatment of others is the first sign to them of a changed life. 

Do we tell the truth?  
Are we tangibly compassionate? 
Do our tempers take over? 
Are we quarrelsome? 
Do we gossip? 
Are we recognized for our bitterness?

Jesus said the mouth speaks from what fills the heart.  

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart,
and these things defile a person.
  ~Matthew 15:18

Are we truly different?

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12 responses »

  1. Good question Michelle. I find myself wondering about this. We acknowledge that we are wretched and sinful and nothing without Jesus. We acknowledge that nothing we can do can make us any better. Yet it seems like we need to do better and be better anyway?

    And because we have been so conditioned with ‘we are sinful’, I look at myself and I am disgusted by my ‘natural reactions’- those of the sinful nature. I mean it is not natural to respond in love and kindness when you have been hurt and wronged. So we pray and hope to God that He will change us, knowing that we cannot change our selves, yet we are also told to change ourselves as in the scripture above.

    And then, we can change our actions, so as in the example above, stop stealing (which to me seems like something easy to do as it is just a behaviour) but on the deepest level, in our hearts, we cannot change that even with the best intentions. I find myself often keeping my mouth shut because I know that what I want to say is not Godly and appropriate, but what good is it if I only keep my mouth shut but my heart is still full of it anyway- I may as well have said it?

    And so the question is can we change ourselves? And then what about grace? Because if we change ourselves it is really about how good we are and grace becomes invalidated?

  2. I think it’s a learning process, Rain. I think the change happens as we “renew our mind” and let the Spirit do His work. I hear Paul saying that we grieve the Spirit when we let ourselves go…no self-control. Possibly what you described, alongwith keeping our mouths shut, we need to be thinking through the source of bitterness, taking the anger to God to see what is the cause. Working through those hurts so they don’t spill out onto the people around us…if there is venom within, working it out with God.

    “And so the question is can we change ourselves? And then what about grace? Because if we change ourselves it is really about how good we are and grace becomes invalidated?”

    I think it’s both. We are told to do both. Realize His grace is sufficient and His throne of grace is available to us at any point. AND do the best we can with the knowledge we’ve been given. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The balance is in the process…He works and we work…and HE works…and we work…AND HE WORKS for His pleasure.

    He promised that He who began the work will be faithful to complete it.

    I’m trusting He will.
    Cause I really need the help.

  3. Gaining faith should transform us. The more we trust, and gain confidence in our faith, the more we live our lives by it.

    I don’t think there are many people who are able to live with total, complete faith, every minute or every day. The rest of us will fail, likely more than once.

    The more we are able to live according to our faith, the more different we become.

  4. I hate failure, Ed. I know it exists…I live it all too well. And you know, that could just be the source of my pain. Being a perfectionist and not knowing how to give myself grace. I give it to others much more freely than I do myself…hmmmm…

    You got me thinking…again…

  5. Our Good Friend Ed claims he does not believe in God, but rather has a ‘faith’ in the goodness of human nature made free from the darkness of savage ignorance through ‘good’ science.

    in answer to your question of are ‘we’ different (meaning different to the person we were ‘before’, i gather??)

    i would say there are remarkably few Christians who are in any meaningful way different to Ed – and certainly very few who are, or do, ‘better’ than he.

    Does that answer your question any?

    Far more people believe themselves to be better than they actually are being.

    That is simple human nature.

    Apart from the original ‘specifications’ (making of man) that has absolutely nothing to do with God, in my considered opinion.

    i don’t believe more than a handful of humans have yet figured out how to put on the New Man as per Ephesians (which i am so glad you quoted) but simply see themselves (the old self) in a new perspective.

    That is most definitely not the same thing Paul was talking about.

    Just looking at our self – the being we have created in our own image – from a different point of view or through another filter of glass is far from renewing the spirit of our mind.

    <B

  6. Yes, Love. I mean different than the person we were before meeting Christ. If we’ve truly met Him, if we are truly His, then we will be changed…right? How can the Holy Spirit of God indwell us and we not change? And His Spirit is LOVE as He is LOVE. It only makes sense that we would love if we are His.

    Love does not gossip. Love does not tear down and destroy with words. Love does not steal, but gives. Love does not lie.

    Of course, we are not perfect. We will stumble. We will not live perfectly this side of heaven, but at least when we mess up…we’ll regret it…won’t we?

    I don’t believe it’s a human change of mind. I believe it’s His supernatural Spirit within that quickens, convicts and leads us to righteousness.

    Abiding in Him we will bear much fruit. What kind of fruit? Righteous, holy…good as He is good…loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled fruit.

    That’s my hope. That’s what I desire. And that’s not me trying to create my own image…I want HIS image to shine through me. I do.

  7. The strength of sinful reactions is something that gets me, and something I’ve really been confronted with in the past few days even. It seems so automatic, and actually extremely difficult to tame.

    It seems so much of day to day life with God is this conflict that Paul spoke about – ‘for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing’ (Rom.7:19). And the battle never really seems to taper off.

    So many of the points Rain made above are ones I’ve been grappling with too recently, and I liked your reply a lot Michelle – renewing our minds and letting God’s Spirit work in us, but also having self control and allowing this work in us. I think this is one I’ll go on learning about with God :).

    Great post, Michelle. Lots to think about :). Love you xo

  8. Thanks, Birg. It does seem the strength of sinful reactions are too difficult to tame. Which reminds me of the verse in James…who can tame the tongue? The answer: Only God.

    I know the truth of Romans 7:19. The part of Paul’s declaration, “Oh wretched man that I am” I understand too well. My son has a shirt he wears which states, “I am the wretch the song is talking about.”

    But God…

    In Him…

    These two phrases keep coming to mind. Only “in Him” are we able. “But God,” being rich in mercy, is able to bring us before Him complete, lacking nothing.

    Love you, Birg, and praying… xo

  9. Thanks Michelle, I found what you said here encouraging. It seems to be the way of God, that things are often ‘two-sided’ (the best I can explain it) some people would say it is contradictory, but I think it is just circular, everything is contained in the one being of God.

    For example I was also reading this week about God’s grace vs. God’s wrath and how we have almost relied too much on the grace side and almost forgotten the holiness of God that cannot tolerate sin. I think the two subjects are linked somehow too. And like you said, His grace is sufficient, but we need to work too, and He works, and we work… I liked that 🙂

  10. What has just jumped out at me from what is written here that i may not have clearly expressed before…

    We are not to just be ‘different’ to the person we were before we found about Christ. As you said is it not about a simple human change of mind – anyone can change their human mind and become different to the person they were before – different does not mean we become any better – just different.

    Rather as your post mentions we are to become RADICALLY different – far superior in all ways to that which we ‘were’. It is next to impossible for a human to achieve this independently.

    it is also impossible for a human to do this unless there is a radical ‘change of mind’ – to refuse to allow ourselves to take any action that denies the existence of, or the commandments of, or the Love within us of, God.

    We are not to become just different – but totally improved in every aspect of our existence here on earth – better even than the $6 million man Steve Austin – we are to totally be rebuilt from within all the way to the outside. 🙂

    We cannot do this without a model to work towards, whom God has provided us with and stories concerning, and also a little something ‘extra’ – something supernatural – and Holy, perfect even. 🙂

    <B

  11. So you say, Love, He enables us, through His Spirit, to do all He has asked…He doesn’t leave us powerless.

    I ran across this verse today:

    For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power. ~1 Corinthians 4:20

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