You must grow up.
That’s what Paul told the Ephesians. They should not remain as spiritual children. The question is, how does that growth happen?
As I explored in the last blog, Paul said that growth takes equipping. For example, that’s what pastor-teachers are for—not to do all the ministry themselves, but to equip the saints for ministry (Eph 4:12).
But the growing up also takes a radical change in your mind. As you read this next passage, notice the emphasis that Paul places on thinking:
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:17-24).
How did the Gentiles walk (i.e., live)? They walked in mental futility, a darkened understanding, and ignorance.
Their thinking was all wrong. And since thinking affects living, the Gentiles walked in the futility of their minds.
Earlier in the chapter, Paul warned the Ephesians about remaining spiritually childish. One characteristic of young kids is their childish thinking. Christians can be childish in their thinking, too, and that’s not a good thing. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature (1 Cor 14:20 NASB).
When it comes to my kids, I am constantly challenging them to develop and to mature in their thinking about the world. To give just one silly example, I have always taught my kids that Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, a 4th–century bishop and theologian who helped to define the Trinity. The bearded men you see in stores are just wearing costumes. Since my kids have never known any different, they are not “disappointed.” But they are disappointed with their friends! Sometimes they’ll come home with a look of surprise and disgust and say, “Joe still believes in Santa Claus… and he’s nine!”
But Christians need to grow up, too.
I once had to explain to a young Baptist man in his early thirties that no, you do not become an angel after you die.
I also had a hard time convincing a woman in her early twenties that we have no idea if Jesus was a great singer because Jesus Christ Superstar is a work of fiction. She did not believe me!
They both needed to become more mature in their thinking.
In any case, Paul urged the Ephesians to put off the old man (v 22) and to put on the new man (v 24). And how do you do that?
Look at v 23—by renewing your mind.
Unlike the ignorant Gentiles, the Ephesians had “learned Christ,” had been “taught by Him,” and that should make all the difference in the world because “the truth is in Jesus.” The truth about Jesus should have renewed their minds so they would live differently than before.
So if you want to grow up, learn the truth about Jesus. Focus on Him. Make Jesus the pre-occupation of your life. And as that truth transforms your mind, little by little, you’ll mature.