World English Bible translation
4:17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, 4:18 being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; 4:19 who having become callous gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 4:20 But you did not learn Christ that way; 4:21 if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: 4:22 that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; 4:23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 4:24 and put on the new man, that like God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
The transformed life in Christ has a quality of difference to it. If we have faith in Him and what He has accomplished in our lives, we are changed after coming to Christ. In this section, Paul begins to discuss the differences in those who are now in Christ and the rest of the world.
Those in Christ "no longer walk" as everyone else walks. Their everyday conduct is different from those around them. The "vanity of their mind" is the direct opposite of the lowliness and humility that Paul spoke of before. Those whose minds are filled with vain ideas think too highly of themselves. They have no perspective of their own lives in the larger scheme of the world.
The rest of the Gentile world is "darkened in their understanding." Because they fail to recognize the Creator of the world, their understanding of the creation is affected. They are "alienated from the life of God." Only those who accept the sovereignty of God can live as citizens in His kingdom. Since they do not recognize His Lordship, they are aliens. They do not have the life of God or the Spirit of God within them. Instead of the wisdom and understanding that comes from God, they are ignorant of Him. And this ignorance is of their choosing for they have hardened their hearts to God's works and words. God has declared His nature to them, but they do not wish to see and they refuse to acknowledge Him. Because their hearts are hard, they have developed calluses over their hearts and give themselves to lust and sin. They work all uncleanness and greedily want more.
But, believers are not like this. If we have heard of Christ and have been taught about Him, then we know that to follow Him means a change in the direction of our lives. The old person that we used to be has to be "put away." In other places in scripture Paul is even more explicit. The old man must be crucified. He must be slain and buried. The old person that we used to be cannot be allowed to survive or he will continue to affect the rest of our lives.
Instead, the "spirit of your mind" must be renewed. The way that we think about ourselves, about God, and about other people has to change. We are new creations in Christ and we have been given the mind of Christ. I must give up my own perspective and begin to see the world as Christ sees. My thoughts must more and more be His thoughts. If I am to be a member of His body, I must devote myself to His way of life and His thoughts.
In renewing the mind, we "put on the new man." Christ has created a new life for me. The renewed mind comes with a new man. This new, created life that God has for me is a life that is like His very own. It is "created in righteousness and holiness of truth." God does not desire that His children continue to live in the poverty and the sin of this world. He has created us a new life in Christ Jesus. This new life is of the same quality in holiness as His own.
The model for the lives that we are to live is the qualities of life and godliness that are found in the life of Christ. In many ways, the life of Jesus of Nazareth is unique. There are many things that He did that only He could ever do. But, His attitudes and His priorities and His ways of thinking can be ours. The way that He dealt with other people and the way that He responded to the Father can be ours.
God has given us a new life, a new chance. Now is the time for us to begin to live it.
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