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.
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.
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?
• 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.
• 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?