February 27, 2019 • Life for Leaders
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
You are a work in progress. What is that? A work in progress or in process is something that has begun but isn’t finished yet. It’s on the way to being done.
How do I know that you’re a work in progress, and that I am too? We see this in Ephesians 4:23. After reminding the Ephesians that they were taught to put off their “old self,” Paul adds, “[You were taught] to be made new in the attitude of your minds” (4:23). In this verse “to be made new” is one word in Greek, a present infinitive verb (ananeousthai). Knowing the tense of this infinitive helps us grasp its distinct meaning. The present infinitive in Greek conveys a sense of ongoing action, rather than a distinct or completed action. Thus, an expanded translation of verse 23 might read, “[You were taught] to continue in the process of being made new in the attitude of your minds.”
When we first received the good news of the gospel, we became God’s handiwork, newly created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Emphasizing the newness that has already come to us, Paul can write in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” Yet, earlier in the same letter, Paul writes, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed [present tense] day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
So what is it? Are we already renewed? Or are we in the process of being renewed? The biblical answer is “Both.” This answer is based on the eschatological dimension of our lives in Christ, the “already and not yet” reality in which we live. When we became Christians, we were already made new by God’s power through the Word and Spirit. Yet that newness isn’t complete yet. Our lives in Christ are a long process of ongoing renewal through the Word and Spirit as we live in communion with the Triune God and God’s people. In Ephesians 4:23, the present tense of “to be made new” reminds us of this fact.
As you look at your life today, you should be able to see ways in which God has already renewed you. And I expect you can also identify ways still in need of renovation because you are God’s work in progress.
Something to Think About:
How have you already been renewed in Christ?
In what ways do you need still to be renewed?
Something to Do:
As you think of ways you have been renewed by God’s grace, thank the Lord. As you think of ways you need to be renewed, ask for yet more grace to be at work in your life.
Gracious God, thank you for all the ways you have begun to make me new inside. I’m sure I can’t even count half of them. Yet, how grateful I am for what I can see. Thank you!
Still, Lord, I know that I am a work in progress. Yes, you will bring this work to completion one day. But, for now, I am still being formed and reformed by you. Thank you. And may this continue to happen as I open my whole life to you. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Everything Feels Like a Failure When You Are in the Middle
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.