I have a system for putting my baby to sleep. First, I pace the house with him cuddled tightly in my arms. Once his eyes shut, I gently sit down and snuggle him on my chest. Once he stops sucking his soother (a great indicator that he’s finally given way to deep sleep), I gently lay him down in his playpen, pat his back, and sneak out of the room. This system is almost foolproof. Sometimes, however, I lay him down and step out of the room and return seconds later at the sound of sobbing. Sometimes I barely lay him down, and he’s already hysterical.
“I don’t understand, little guy,” I moaned one day after several failed attempts to lay him down for his nap. “I did everything right. You’re supposed to go to sleep.”
Maybe like me, you like systems—do this and you will get that, follow these instructions and you’ll have this result. As one who likes systems, that’s often the first place I look when trying to conquer sin in my heart. I want a step-by-step method with promised results of a holier life. Ephesians 4:22-24 first appeared that way to me—if I follow each of these three simple steps, then I’ll conquer each sin in my life with ease. But what I’ve learned, and what the apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 7, is that the Christian life is not a straight line ascending upward to perfection. Rather, it’s a constant battle with stumbling, retracing our steps, and taking steps forward.
What we see outlined in Ephesians 4:22-24 is not a one-time instruction manual with promises of immediate success. Instead, it is a place we will return to often, probably with the same struggles, and the order may change. But God is faithful, and he will bring us to completion in his timing and lead us as we put off sin, renew our minds, and put on the new self.
“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (ESV)
Read the rest of this article at Servants of Grace.