[Oct 29]—Dressing Appropriately

            We’re called to mature in Christ. It’s not an option. If you’ve truly been redeemed, then you need to demonstrate this by how you act. Over time, you should think more like Christ, which will eventually lead to you 1) talking more like Christ and 2) acting more like Christ.
            Now we come to some more marks of maturity and some outright commands. The first command Paul gives is pretty simple: Don’t be like non-Christians! How does he describe nonbelievers? Their thinking is futile, their understanding is darkened, and they’re separated from the life of God. Why? Why are they in this sad state? Yes, they’re ignorant, but the cure for this is not an imparting of information (which is the usual remedy for ignorance); the problem is their hardness of hearts. They’ve decided they aren’t going to listen to their Maker. Instead of doing things his way, they’re dead-set on doing things their own way. And this leads to an increasingly dead conscience and a downward spiral of lust, both the lust for pleasure and the lust for money.
            Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. Their condition started with not listening to God. Unless God intervenes and pulls me off this path, I’m a dead man. So the question is: Am I like them? Do I make a conscious effort to do things his way instead of mine? Do I let my desires control me, or do I control them? Apparently it’s one or the other.
            In verse 20 Paul says “That, however, is not the way of life you learned.” That’s a nice way of saying You know better than this. You were taught better than this. You have no excuse for living like this. You certainly weren’t taught to live a sexually immoral lifestyle or a life centered around money from the teachings of our Savior or from any of the Apostles.
            You were taught to take off this lifestyle like a ratty, smelly set of clothes (more fit for a homeless guy than a child of the King) and to put on your “new you.” In Christ you’re a new creature, a brand new creation, and the way you live needs to reflect that.
            So what are we supposed to take off? Falsehood/deceit. Uncontrolled anger. Theft. Unwholesome talk. Bitterness. Rage. Brawling. Slander. Any type of malice. Sorry to be crude here, but a son of Bill Gates shouldn’t be wearing an outfit borrowed from a homeless guy that smells like pee and poop. That’s the image here. These are not appropriate for a child of God.          
            But nature abhors a vacuum, and so does our spiritual life. You have to take off some things, but you need to put on some things to replace them:
·         Instead of falsehood, you need to speak the truth to your neighbor. Deceiving your neighbor is hurting yourself.
·         Instead of letting anger simmer and fester (probably this is what Paul’s referring to when he says “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”), you need to be kind and compassionate with one another. Be as quick to forgive as you’ve been forgiven. The Lord you serve is the “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” and since you can testify that this is how he’s treated you, you need to treat others the same way.
·         Instead of stealing from others, you need to work for your living. Notice that it’s not enough just to quit stealing. It’s not even enough to work for a living. All of that’s supposed to be a given for even an honest person. Most pagans would understand this. But we’re supposed to work for a living so that we can help those in need.
·         Instead of unwholesome talk, the only words that should come out of your mouth should be “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” It’s not enough just to avoid lying. It’s not enough just to be entirely honest in your speech, although that should be a given. No, your speech should be helpful and edifying. That certainly doesn’t mean you’re positive all the time (which any reading of the prophets would confirm), but is does mean that the purpose of your speaking should be positive, even when your “speaking the truth in love” sounds negative at first blush.

            Notice the touching admonition of verse 30: “[Do] not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  I love the tension here--Paul seems to be really love presenting truths in tension. From the second half of the verse, someone might be tempted to say “Well, I’m sealed! I’m redeemed! I’m forgiven, now and forever! Nothing I ever do will change that! Therefore I can sin all I want!”
            But note the first part of the verse. Paul doesn’t say here that we need to obey commands, although that would be true if he did. He doesn’t threaten us with punishment, although sin always has bad consequences, even for a believer. No, he admonishes us “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God. . .” I promise you, if you were convicted for murder and sent to jail, the arresting officer probably wouldn’t cry into his pillow over you. You broke the law and got punished. But this is much more than that. This is breaking his heart. When you, a redeemed child of God, do things your way instead of his way, you cause him to weep. Don’t.
            Let’s bring a smile to his face, shall we?
Holy Spirit of God, that’s what I so much want to do. I want to speak in ways that help others. I want to forgive like I’ve been forgiven. I want to be dressed appropriately. I want to cause you to smile. By your grace, I will. 

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