Change is painful. There is no change without loss. There is no loss without pain. It is not difficult to understand that all change is painful. Intentional change – the changes we choose– has an added layer of difficulty because we don’t like it. For many of us, this explains why it’s been so long since we’ve experienced any meaningful transformation..
We need to learn how to change on purpose because we can’t rely on uncontrollable events and crisis to become the person God created for us to be. Sure, God works through these things to shape us, but we also have the responsibility to pursue personal transformation. The following teaching from Ephesians 4 can help us to this end:
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. […] Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Ephesians 4:17; 19)
Here are the results of my reflection on this passage:
“You must no long life as the Gentiles do…”
ONE: Decide to be obedient.
Nothing happens without commitment, nothing significant happens without sacrifice. The pursuit of change is an act of obedience that we don’t naturally want to take.. When we decide to change, we are choosing to follow Jesus authentically.
Typically, the term “Gentiles” is a racial description—meaning “not Jewish”—but in this passage Paul is talking about a spiritual condition: a life separate from God.
“…in the futility of their thinking…”
TWO: Give up worthless thinking.
How we act springs from what we think. Every action is rooted in our thought life, so if we want to change our life, we need to change the way we think.
One part of this process includes the identification of specifically what is futile. For example, sometimes we think, “If I’m selfish, I’ll be satisfied.” Nothing could be further than the truth! But we often live with self deceptions like this because we don’t take the time to identify them. The rest of this scripture highlights futile thinking we often allow to take root in our thought life.
“Having lost all sensitivity…”
THREE: Develop greater awareness.
We love to rely on our own intuition. But it’s not enough, especially when we are living in immaturity. The gas gage in a car only works because it’s been tuned. When we have lost our sensitivity, we need to be tuned by God’s Word, prayer, rigorous reflection, and input from mature believers.
This isn’t just true for our entire lives, but also in specific areas. We may be doing really good spiritually in many areas, but we still have a few blind spots and lost sensitivity. Think of a person whom you can’t stand…when it comes to your interactions with (and thoughts about) that person, you need to develop greater sensitivity so you can determine what is right and what is wrong.
“They have given themselves over to sensuality”
FOUR: Reject the trap of feeling good
The unspiritual life lacks freedom because it’s enslaved by feelings. “If it feels good, do it!” This thinking is immature and leads to pain, and it grows over time. When we live in darkness—outside of the light of God’s desire and design for our lives—we become enslaved to feeling good. We are quick to give ourselves over to destructive habits and adopt all kinds of addictions, most of which are emotional rather than chemical. Some examples of futile thinking:
“It feels good to be admired by others, so I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve this.
“It feels good to have power, so I’ll do anything to get more.”
Just because something feels right, this doesn’t mean it’s actually right. This truth becomes self evident the moments after indulge in things we we shouldn’t.
“So as to indulge in every kind of impurity”
FIVE: Refocus on the future.
When we live to feel good, it works for a while, there can be no denying this! However, the impurity builds up over time and our quality of life diminishes. A polluted heart becomes a corrupted heart. The commitment to seek change means lifting our head up and looking a little further down the road.
Telling a “white” lie may avoid a few immediate problems, but it sows a seed for future disaster. Lying becomes easier, eventually people will find out and stop trusting you, and your lack of integrity will lead to a lack of peace. If you refocus on the future, you’ll want things like trust from others and peace within your heart. You will find the courage to tell the truth today (even if it means trouble) when you have an eye on tomorrow.
“…and they are full of greed.”
SIX: Resist temptation
Resisting temptation is the only way to reduce temptation. When we give in to temptation, it’s power grows. Poking a few holes in a dam may reduce the pressure on it’s wall, but our hearts aren’t the same way. When we feed the unhealthy hunger in our heart, we improve our vision for objects of destruction. Unhealthy hungers are never satisfied for very long.
The choice for transformation is a choice for obedience. We must recognize fruitless thinking and develop greater sensitivity to the things of God. We can reject the trap of feeling good by recognizing that the satisfaction of sensual feelings is short lived, it only leads to greed for more indulgence. Transformation is a battle against temptation, and resisting temptation is the only way to reduce temptation.