That’s Not Who You Are

Ephesians 4:17-24

That’s not who you are. That’s who you were. That is essentially what Paul is saying here. Something has changed. You have changed. God has changed you.

Change talk is tricky, though. We love change in 2018 America. New phones, new streaming services, new, new, new, most of it welcomed with open arms, and much of it beneficial. We’re at a time of the year where people tend to focus on change in their own lives. They want to change how they use their time, their weight, their health, their relationships. This also can be good. There’s nothing wrong with goals. But what about change when it comes to being a Christian?

That’s not who you are. You’ve been changed. That’s what Paul is saying, but do we feel so different? We’re still tempted. We still sin in our weakness. We still struggle. How isn’t who we were still who we are? It sure feels like nothing has changed sometimes, even more than sometimes.

You’ve changed because God has changed you. He has moved you from death to life. He has declared you His own. He has bought you at a price—the price of His own blood, life, and death. You have changed. You have a new standing. You are baptized. That’s not just something in the past. It’s with you, daily.

The old flesh still clings, though. The old Adam hangs around our neck. We are sinner-saints. The Christian life is a struggle, precisely because it is the Christian life. In many ways, life would be easier without our Christianity. But the struggle is a sign of life, not of death. The struggle reminds us that we’ve already died, died even to those things that tempt and attempt to entangle us. We are God’s own.

Paul’s admonition here isn’t one-and-done. It’s not something we do and then move on from, that we can put behind us. Every single day we put off the old and put on the new. Every single day we relive our Baptism. Why? Because we are created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, and so we mortify the sinful nature, we struggle, we take up our cross and follow.

Have you done that enough? God doesn’t deal with enoughs when it comes to His children. We are enough because He says we are in Christ. We have enough because He supplies it. We don’t struggle so that He will love us. We struggle because He loves us. We don’t strive to live a godly life to be holy. We strive because we are holy, set apart by God through faith, His gift through the word of promise. Forgiven, we learn to forgive. Objects of compassion, we learn to feel for others, to mimic the love with which God has loved us, like children learning to walk and talk. We are created and are being recreated, daily, through cross and promise, trial and absolution.

Have you changed enough? Certainly not, if you are asking whether you are where you should be. No, when it comes to shoulds, to the law, we won’t be, do, think, say enough this side of heaven. But Christ is enough, and He is yours, and He is for you, and He is for your neighbor, and in Him you are new, each day, ready for the struggle, not by your strength, but through His grace. So, fight on, not for salvation, but as the saved. Press on, not to forge your path to heaven, but because heaven is yours, as is the Way who has gone ahead to prepare a place for you. When tempted, know that you are dead to that sin, crucified and buried with Christ, raised to new life. When accused, hear again the absolution. When weary, remember that He who hung in death and weakness also rose to for your justification.

That’s not who you are; it’s who you were. It’s true every day of the Christian’s life. The struggle is old, and yet daily new, but it’s a struggle we face knowing that victory is already ours. We have been changed, moved from death to life, hell to heaven, defeated to hopeful. We have been shown the futility of our thinking, not to despair, but to rejoice in our freedom from it, to dwell on the One who came and dwelt among us to make all things new, to turn our idols into gifts, our crosses into blessings, even when the burden seems heavy, the plot unfair, and the future uncertain. You have been created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness and in Him you can call a thing what it is, even as you struggle. In Him, it’s what you were, temporary, something to be borne, but to be borne as one who has been born again.

Wade Johnston

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