Making All Things New

Spiritual maturity requires time—and the removal of obstacles.

Since the late 80s, reality TV has become a favorite genre among viewers. There have been countless programs of this type, spanning a dozen different categories and carried on nearly every channel. One popular topic is makeovers, whether it’s revamping someone’s wardrobe, flipping or staging houses, changing bad habits to get out of debt, or losing weight at “boot camp.” We see a similar trend in other areas as well: Graphic designers and social media gurus offer rebranding services, from remodeled web sites to modernized logos and updated corporate images. And life coaches promise to help us succeed in our career and relationship aspirations.

Cumulus Clouds over a Landscape, 1822 (oil on canvas), by John Constable
 

You can probably relate—most of us have at least a couple of areas of life that we’d like to move from “before” to “after.” In fact, the desire is pretty universal. As children, many of us fantasized about growing up to be superheroes or princesses, or to star in our own rags-to-riches story. Young and old alike have always been fascinated by those who reinvent themselves or go through dramatic transformations. Their stories give us hope that we, too, can become better people, that our circumstances can improve somehow.

Whatever the type of project, a basic principle applies to every scenario: We cannot experience change, renewal, and growth without first letting go of what we no longer want. Of course, the challenge can be to first identify what needs to be eliminated and what needs to stay.

 

Read Ephesians 4:11-32

Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul avoided vague philosophies about Christian living and instead presented a detailed plan for moving from spiritual infancy to maturity. This checklist may seem like a tall order, but if anyone was qualified to give such stringent directions, it was Paul. He had already practiced what he was preaching, to the point that his commitment to Christ had landed him in prison.

Earlier in his letter (see Eph. 2:10), Paul had exhorted the Ephesian believers to walk in the good works God had created them for. Then in verses 22-24 of the fourth chapter, he urged them to make room for God’s righteousness and holiness by first discarding any traces of their old sinful selves.

One might compare this process to what some animals go through as they develop: Lizards and snakes slough off their skins, crabs shed their exoskeletons, and caterpillars miraculously transform into butterflies. Isaiah, in fact, may have been thinking along these lines when he wrote about eagles (Isa. 40:30-31)—the immature bird’s downy feathers are replaced by stronger flight feathers through a process known as molting.

If creatures were to resist such necessary changes, they would in all likelihood grow weak and die. Similarly, if we oppose the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, we sabotage our own spiritual growth and become feeble and ineffective Christians.

 

Reflect

Write your thoughts in a journal.

• While God offers salvation and rebirth to us as individuals, He is also in the business of bringing renewal to the world, and each believer has a role to play in the advancement of His kingdom. We may think spiritual laziness or apathy affects only ourselves, but as the saying goes, if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. Read Revelation 21:5, Lamentations 3:22-23, and Isaiah 43:18-19. How can stagnation in a Christian’s development become a hindrance or stumbling block to others?

• Jesus told the disciples that to be His followers, they must first drop what they were doing—in other words, deny themselves—and then come after Him. (See Luke 9:23.) Trying to follow Christ while hanging on to our old life is like trying to grow a lovely garden without first pulling out the weeds, or rebuilding a house without first clearing the debris and detritus on the construction site. Read Hebrews 12:1. Some common hindrances to spiritual growth include unconfessed sin, an unforgiving heart, selfishness, a love for worldly things, and ignorance of God’s Word. Do any of these or other encumbrances prevent running your race with endurance?

 

Respond

• In what ways have you witnessed the Lord making “all things new”? How would you say you have contributed to the furtherance of His kingdom? Can you think of situations in which you might be an impediment to His kingdom work?

• Ask God to show you what renewal and revival might look like in your life and how you can make space for Him to move in such a powerful way. Commit to doing the work of clearing out obstacles that clutter your path toward spiritual maturity.

• If you’ve never experienced the miracle of rebirth—that is, of being born again—ask a pastor or trusted Christian friend to explain how Jesus can become your Lord and Savior. Then make it your goal to know Him better each day.

 

Revisit

• In Romans 12:2 and Ezekiel 36:26, we see two key areas of life that require ongoing renewal: the mind and the heart. Take time this week to look up the following scriptures and note how they relate to renewal of the mind, heart, or both:
• Psalm 23:3
• Psalm 51:10-12
• John 17:17
• 2 Corinthians 4:16
• 2 Corinthians 5:17
• Philippians 4:8
• Colossians 3:10

• Make a note on your calendar to return to this Bible study in three or four weeks. At that time, take an inventory of changes in your relationship with the Lord. In what ways have you grown? Which areas still need work?

 
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What happens to my notes

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,

18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,

21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.

26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

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

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,

31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

5 And He who sits on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, Write, for these words are faithful and true."

22 The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

18 Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.

19 Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.

23 And He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--

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