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Power for Change

Every year, at the beginning of the year, about of us who live in America seize upon the desire for a fresh start at New Year’s and make one or more resolutions.  We resolve to make some kind of lifestyle change. We want to lose weight, so we resolve to cut down on our sugar intake and exercise more.  We want to be healthier, so we resolve to quit smoking or drinking.  We want to get out of debt, so we make a resolution to spend less.  We feel determined. We look at the people around us who physically and fiscally fit and we decide that we want to be like that too.  So, we join a fitness center or a 12-step program or buy a book. We create a plan for change.

And yet every year, according to the experts who track these things, 97 percent of us with firm resolve fail. We start off with good intentions, but usually by the end of January we lose our enthusiasm.  We don’t stay with the program.  And so, we don’t lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking or drinking, or get out of debt.  We hope that working for change from the outside in will materialize.  But it usually doesn’t.  We don’t change. We conclude that we can’t do it.  Some people were cut out for this, but some aren’t.  We’re just not called to that lifestyle. We decide that we’re among the vast number that can’t make these lifestyle changes. 

Then we come to the passage from Ephesians 4 we have been working through and see that we are called to be changed from the inside out.  We are called to “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1).  When we read that verse, it’s likely to trip us up.  There are two reasons for this:

First of all, we’re not sure this even means.  It’s just too general for us to grasp.  So, the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to write some specifics about what God has worked in us. The specifics that reflect a life that is worthy of what Christ has done for us are these: humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance (Ephesians 4:2).  When you are “walking worthy,” you will be humble rather than self-centered, gentle rather than argumentative, patient rather than reactionary, and forbearing rather than judgmental toward other people. So many of the sinful habits and patterns we are losing the battle with have to do with these four attitudes. So how do we become like this? We look at that list of qualities and think, “I can’t do that.  I’m not cut out for it.”  But then we go back to v. 1 which tells us that we are called to live out these qualities, which means this—we are cut out for this lifestyle. 

And this leads us to the second reason why these verses trip us up.  Even if we are called to live out these qualities, we just don’t have the power to do it.  So, how do we get this power?  We might expect the next thing Paul tells would be something about the work of the Holy Spirit and how we can tap into that power.  But he doesn’t.  Instead, he launches into a theological discussion about Jesus. Verses 7-10 actually take us to one of the most mysterious points in Jesus’ ministry: that period between His death and His resurrection. What was Jesus doing during those three days? And how can that help me break long-standing addictions or forgive someone who has deeply wounded me or stop cursing or break free from pornography?

If you’re ready for real life change in Christ, you’re going to need a theological understanding of what Jesus did between His death and resurrection.  We’ll get a little deeper into that on Sunday.  Until then, please be aware of something of tremendous importance—theological understanding is foundational to Christian living.  Theological understanding connects you to the power to change.