Read: Ephesians 5:8-9; Ephesians 4:25-32; Ephesians 5:1
I have been laughing at myself this week. Sometimes the smallest incidents can be not only humorous but also a truth reminder. May I explain? At least three fourths of the time when I have picked up the phone and attempted to complete a call, I have heard the same message: “We're sorry. You must first dial the area code in order to make this call. Will you please hang up and try again?” The funny thing is that even though I know that it is now necessary to put in the area code to complete all local calls, I have been returning to my default by leaving off the 605. I'm wondering how many times I will have to hang up and try again. It seems evident to me that I'll be laughing at myself many more times and that I'll be saying that "I did that again"!
If such a little thing isn't easy to change, no wonder we change so slowly in some truly important areas of our lives. Though the Bible says that we are new creations the instant that we turn away from our sin and rely on Jesus' righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:17, we still have habit patterns and old ways of coping with life that we carry into our new walk with Jesus. These are the patterns of acting and reacting that have been with us all our years prior to the day that were born anew, John 3:3. If you will, these could be called our default behaviors, and though I wish it were not true, most of them don't go away immediately when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.
As we learn and grow in our walk with the Lord, we discover what pleases Him, Ephesians 5:10. When we know what God is like and how He wants us to live, we often hear the Holy Spirit's message when we have acted according to our default habit patterns. He calls us to turn away from the old and turn to the new way. As we hear and act accordingly, He helps and empowers us. In Ephesians 5:1, we are told to imitate God by walking in Love. Spending time with the Lord through talking with Him in prayer and learning about Him in His word will teach us more and more what He is like. In Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul speaks concerning everyday life. Here he contrasts how our default lives might look now and what to do differently because we belong to Jesus. If we find ourselves defaulting to the old ways, Paul shows us how to act now that we are members of God's family, 1 John 3:1. Let's choose a few every day examples from these verses to see the practical things we can do if we find ourselves returning to our old ways of acting and reacting.
1. Our Words. In Ephesians 4:25, Paul tells us to speak truth because we have put away falsehood. We are a family, and we are connected to each other. Lying is not becoming for a child of the light, Ephesians 5:8-9. Instead, our behavior should be like God's. He always speaks truth and does it with love. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul addresses our words again. When we speak, the effect of our words should be the building up of those who hear. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that she could receive living water, the Holy Spirit living in and through her, John 4:13-14. What a picture living water is concerning our Spirit-led words. Think of the sweet refreshment of really good cold water contrasted with brackish water. What beautiful things our words can be when we don't default to our old way of speaking. It is so easy to default to careless or harsh words, Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 15:1. The fruit of these kinds of words is bitter and hurtful. How different the result is when our words are gracious? Words given to us by the Lord. When we speak helpful words, even anxious hearts can be made glad, Proverbs 12:25.
2. Our forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul speaks of an area where any of us might default to our old ways. Unforgiveness. How easy it is to carry a grudge, to let a little bitterness begin to grow. If not dealt with, these old ways of reacting can result in the grieving of the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 4:30. I am thankful that Ephesians 4:32 gives us the antidote for unloving attitudes toward others. When those default reactions come into our thinking, and I think it is a rare person who doesn't fight with this default, we are invited by Paul to remember something very precious. God's awesome forgiveness that we have received. We can look upon the lavishness of His grace and the vast number of sins that He will never remember against us, Psalm 103:12. All of our past, present and future sins have been borne by Him and not imputed to our accounts! As we think about God's saving and sustaining grace, we can set aside any attitudes of unforgiveness toward one another. When we do this, we are not saying someone hasn't caused us hurt or that they are innocent. We are simply giving up the right to hold sin against them because of the sweetness of God's freely given grace that we have received, Ephesians 2:8-9.
As we grow and change, we will still say, "Oh, I did that again". We will each struggle with our defaults and faults until we become like the Lord when we are with Him, 1 John 3:1-4. Until then, He will be at work helping us so that we long to do His will, Philippians 2:12-13. Then, as we begin to look more and more like Jesus, we will say "Oh, He did that again". The honor belongs to Him.