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Feb 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 1, 2015 – Ephesians 4:20-24

“Transformative Education”

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 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, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in [lit. “according to”] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:20-24

Intro: There are several stories in the gospels in which Jesus made side-trips

Departing from his normal itinerary of towns, villages and hillsides,
– Jesus took off with disciples – usually for rest, but also for reflection
• one time, he led them to the northern most area of the Galilee, to Caesarea Philippi
• the beautiful and majestic setting was marked by a history of pagan gods that was centuries old
– there Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
• they, no doubt, would have heard the gossip — “a prophet,” “the return of Elijah,” etc.
◦ they knew people were merely guessing
• then looking directly at them, Jesus asked them, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”

I doubt Jesus was overly concerned with how the crowds perceived him
– if anything, he worked at keeping his identity hidden
• but it was crucial to his mission that some knew who he was
• so he tested what disciples’ experience of him had taught them
– the truth that would save them would not be:
• Jesus the prophet, or teacher, or healer
• but Jesus “the Messiah, the Son of the living God”
Paul grasped this truth as clearly as anyone
• his passion in life was to know Jesus in ever greater intimately (Php. 3:8-10)

In the 1980’s, a phrase was introduced to adult education: “transformative learning”
– we grew up in an educational system that was informative and “conformative”
• that is, we were taught that there was one right answer that everyone had to recite
– Paul’s big idea in these verses:
◦ transformation is exactly what knowing Jesus does (2 Cor. 3:18)

I find it intriguing that in this passage Paul inserts four odd (or at least unusual) terms

Vv. 20-21, The first odd term, “learn Christ”

“But you did not learn Christ in this way”
– “this way” refers to what we went over last week
• that as “Gentiles,” we lived in futility, closed off from God, and driven by insatiable neediness
• Paul contrasts this with our current life in God, which is a transformed life
◦ we’ve been changed from what we were then to who we are now
◦ this has resulted from our spiritual education — we have learned Christ
– Jesus is the curriculum of Christian spirituality

E. K. Simpson, “Usually we learn subjects, not persons”

• but Christianity is Christ – knowing him is the heart of it
• to know Jesus is to know that (transforming) “truth” is in him

We do not merely read and think about Jesus and his teaching
– our connection with him is more personal than that
• Paul says, we have “heard him” not just of him, and we have been taught in him
• when did we connect with Jesus in this way? When:
◦ he has been “portrayed” before our eyes (Gal. 3:1)
◦ through apostles, we have gazed at him and touched him (1 Jn. 1:1-3)
◦ he has drawn close to us as we fixed our attention on him in prayer
◦ in others (even the “least” of his brothers and sisters)
– studying Jesus we come to know him well
• we memorize his mannerisms, so to speak
• that his how we come to recognize his presence — by his work and its effect
◦ even if we miss it in the precise moment, we can later say, “Jesus has been here”

V. 22, The second odd term, “the lusts of deceit”

In verses 22-24 Paul lays out in parallel the descriptions of our two selves
– each description has three statements:

  1. a reference to our lives past and present
    – “your former manner of life”
    – “be renewed”
  2. instructions to put off the old self and put on the new self
  3. the nature of the old and the new
    – “corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit”
    – “which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth”

• so our former life was the expression of our “old self” — the person we were
◦ we are to put it off, as if it were as easy to identify and discard as an old coat
◦ the reason is that it’s in a constant state of increasing corruption
– this brings us to the odd term, “lusts of deceit” — the old self was deceived by its desires
• it is possible that Paul is simply saying that sin is deceptive
• he has mentioned tricky people who deceive
◦ and he has stressed the truth — that we are to be both speaking and living it
• in fact, today’s passage begins and ends with truth

Bernard Lonergan described conversion as a process of discovering what is inauthentic in one’s self and moving to what is authentic

◦ giving up our old self (or false self) is to give up our illusions
◦ “lusts” tells us where old self is attached to the world

Vv. 23-24, The third and fourth odd terms

Our former manner of life is contrasted with the renewal of the spirit of our minds
– at one time our minds were new
• we were open, bent on exploration and discovery, and full of curiosity
– renew is to make new again and the odd term is “spirit of your mind”
• usually spirit and mind are seen as two different parts of the inner life
• perhaps Paul is referring to the spiritual influence on our thoughts
◦ this renewal is transformed thinking

Putting off the old self is contrasted with putting on the new self
– “new” is not the typical Greek word neo (as in Col. 3:10)
• but kainon, fresh, as in a “fresh start” – we begin again

Corruption with deceitful lusts is contrasted with being in God created . . . etc.
– the odd term here is “righteousness and holiness of the truth”
• righteous: right with God, with others, with the world, with one’s self
• holiness: devotion to God, life formed by his will
– I hear Paul saying that the closer you get to truth, the more it changes you
• truth isn’t merely learned or believed, but lived 
◦ we aren’t transformed if stay put in our old prejudices and perspectives
• honesty is a necessary force in change
◦ “This isn’t working” or “This isn’t accurate”
◦ facing our conflicted thoughts or emotions is a step toward transformation

Conc: In this passage, Paul makes us conscious of a process

We may not have noticed the process because it was gradual or because we live inside the experience
– we have been changing
• it is, in fact, part of the process to bring the change to awareness, to mull it over
• it’s what we’re doing now or what these verses will evoke in us later on

Paul has also brought to light our inner conflict, which he well describes in Romans 7
– the model he uses is two persons occupying and fighting over one mind and body
• Paul addresses this in several places — e.g., Gal. 5:16-17
• In Romans 8:5-9, Paul contrasts living in the mind of the flesh with the mind of the Spirit
◦ in 1 Corinthians 3:1 he contrasts the “fleshly” (sarkinois) self with the spiritual (pneumatikois) self
◦ I use sarchotic self and pneumatic self for the old (false) self and the new (true self)
– we are making ongoing progress in the transformation from the one to the other
• even if our progress is uneven — at times rapid, at times painfully slow

Going back to Peter’s response to Jesus’ question at Caesarea Philippi
– we see that the moment he confessed who he knew Jesus to be, Peter discovered his true self
• it is in knowing God that we come to our own identity and authentic self

I pray that this week we will make time for learning Christ
That setting aside all other thoughts and feelings, we will turn our thoughts toward Jesus
That in prayer and contemplation we will be with him
And let’s take full advantage of the help that has been given to us
That is, the Spirit of God who desires to renew the spirit of our mind with every breath

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