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Monday, September 19, 2016

God Grows Me One Step at a Time

In review of Ephesians 4:22-24 it says, “So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to — the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy”

Bottom Line:
Put on your new self, created like God, that is now different.

What this means to me:
I must put on a new self, one which is created in God’s likeness and they reveals itself in a life that is conducted in an upright and useful manner.

Today's passages come from the second part of Ephesians chapter 4, where Paul is explaining to those in Ephesus about living as children of light. He tells us to no longer live as the Gentiles do, helplessly confused. For they are far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. So we are to throw off our old sinful nature and former ways of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception of this world and culture. Instead, we are to let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes. Then based on this renewal we are to put on our new nature, one created to be like God, truly righteous and holy.

Although God could instantly transform me, he has chosen to develop me slowly. Jesus was deliberate in developing his disciples, just as God allowed the Israelites to take over the Promised Land “little by little” so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed (Deuteronomy 7:22). It seems God prefers to work in smaller incremental steps.

I am learning there are several reasons for what God works this way:

First, I’m a slow learner. I often have to relearn a lesson 40 or 50 times to really get it. The problems keep recurring, and I think, “Not again! I’ve already learned that!” But God knows better. The history of Israel illustrates how quickly we all forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert to our old patterns of behavior. It seems I need the repeated exposure.

Second, I have a lot to unlearn. Since most of my problems and bad habits didn’t develop overnight, it’s unrealistic for me to expect for them go away immediately. There is no pill, prayer, or principle that will instantly undo the damage of many years. It requires the hard work of removal and replacement. I believe this is why scripture calls it “taking off the old self” and “putting on the new self” (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:7-10, 14).

Thirdly growth is often painful and scary. There is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss; and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind. We fear these losses, even if our old ways were self-defeating, because, like a worn-out pair of shoes, they were at least comfortable and familiar.

Lastly good habits take time to develop. I’ll need to keep in mind that my character is the sum total of my habits. I can’t claim to be kind unless I am habitually kind. My habits will define my character.

There is only one way I can think of to develop the habits of Christ-like character: I must practice them, and that will take time! There are no instant habits. Which is probably why Paul urged Timothy to, “Practice these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15 GW).

Often, God allows us to experience pain and loss in our journey to growth.  I suspect that there is no better way than through experience to work this and its emphasis into our lives.

One of my bad habits that comes to mind for me is being humble. I’d like to think of myself a being humble, however based on my actions I find myself not so humble at times.  I often get big headed and think of myself much greater than I should.

One thing I can try to practice each day is from Philippians 2:3-4, and its practice humility and considers others as better than myself. Then attempt to serve them and make a difference in their lives.