February 28, 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.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I stated that you are a work in progress. Today, I will be more specific. You are God’s work in progress.
I expect you already know you’re a work in progress. You can see God’s work in you, yet you know there’s much more to be done. This realization may encourage you because it explains why—though you are already new in Christ—you’re not perfect yet. Or, the thought of being a work in progress may discourage you because it seems to imply that you now have one more major item on your to-do list—clean the house; fill out tax forms; close the deal; put off old self; put on new self; make self new in Christ.
Yet, this to-do list fails to deal with another key feature of the verb “to be made new.” Ephesians 4:23 says: “[You were taught] to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” Notice that the infinitive here is “to be made new,” not “to make new” or “to make yourself new.” The original verb in Greek is passive. What is implied here without being stated could be represented in an expanded translation, “[You were taught] to be made new by God.” We don’t make ourselves new. God does.
Yet, the phrase “were taught to be made new” does suggest some role for us in the process. We aren’t passive recipients of spiritual renewal. Spiritual renewal isn’t something God does to us whether we like it or not. Rather, we have the opportunity—indeed the imperative—to open ourselves to the work God seeks to do in us through the Spirit or to close ourselves off to the Spirit’s work, thereby slowing down the renewal that God wants for us.
According to Ephesians 4, we have been taught to be open and available, to allow the Lord access to every part of us, including those parts that are most in need of renovation, parts we often keep away from God because of shame or deceitful desire. Yet when we expose all that we are to the Lord, when we invite him to transform us, then by grace he does; not all at once, but faithfully and consistently throughout our lives.
Something to Think About:
How open are you to God’s renewing work in your life?
Now, think again. Really, how open are you to God’s renewing work in your life?
What parts of you are most in need of the renewal that comes from the Lord?
Something to Do:
With a close Christian friend or a small group, talk about how God is in the process of renewing you right now. Share at least one part of your life where you sense God’s renewing presence and power. If you’re not sure about this, share that too, and then pray for each other.
Gracious God, how thankful I am for your renewing work in me. Every now and then I try to make myself new. I come up with plans and resolutions. I try and try. But, in the end . . . I fail. Only you can make me new inside.
You do this very thing, thank you! Yet you don’t barge in. You don’t force me to do what I have not chosen. You allow me to open the door to you or, unfortunately, to keep it closed. Help me, Lord, to open all that I am to you. Come in and clean house. Make me new, wholly new, for your purposes and glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Do Your Work in a Worthy Manner (Philippians 1:27–2:11)
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.