Do you want to please God? To me, a prayer that is short and handy and covers the Christian life well is, “Father, help me to please you.” If we are growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18) and in holiness, we are pleasing God.
That is the underlying theme of the next five verses.
4:20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,
Paul’s contemporary readers didn’t get off easily in this “discussion,” and neither do we. We are to live differently than unbelievers.
Not in the surface aspects. Like anyone, we all need to eat. We all can enjoy friendships, even sex (within marriage). We all need time off, recreation. But we need different motivation and a different worldview. Because we believe and know the truth, we can see this life, not as an end in itself in which we eagerly go for all the pleasure and entertainment we can get before we die, but as a school, a training ground for eternity.
And to follow Jesus is to be obedient in sacrificing those sins we enjoy. It is a learning and maturation process, in theological terms called sanctification. Paul next describes this process.
4:21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
Being a sincere Christian does not guarantee that you are listening to God.
This might sound a little “psycho” to some. Listening to God? But recall, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice…” (John 10:27). And that necessitates a willingness to do God’s will: “If any man is willing to do His will, he will know the teaching…” (John 7:17).
And, there’s more than hearing and even obedience. There’s “being taught” too. In fact, the truth exists in Jesus Christ. He is its source. Hence, we learn by walking with Him, sharing our life with Him, and listening to His gentle quiet voice within. Daily fellowship.
By the way, His voice is most easily understood intuitively. It can come as an eye-opening insight, more commonly called a “hunch.”
Do you want to learn at Jesus’ feet? Then actively, pro-actively exercise faith. Acknowledge that you need His help, His wisdom, His direction. Ask Him for it. And ask HIm to help you become willing to do His will. Then expect Him to give grant your requests. After all, it is His will that you know all that.
4:22 that you put off the old self which is according to your former manner of life, the one according to the lusts of deceitfulness,
4:23 and that you be renewed by the spirit of your mind,
4:24 and put on the your new self, that which has been created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
First, what is the core teaching that Jesus would have us understand. Paul has just described it in the above three verses. If we indeed are listening to Jesus intuitively within, what does He tell us? Paul gives us a summary in those verses above.
This is vital: it is the way to grow spiritually.
Like old clothing, take off your former way of living, which is motivated by lust (wanting more and more, things and pleasure). Such things are deceitful. We think that with them we will find happiness, that a little more will satisfy us, and more never does. We always want more–it’s the way of lust. Those things we want can be deceitful too because they can be harmful to us spiritually, and often we are not aware of the harm that occurs.
Instead put on, like clothing, your new self God made when you believed in Jesus Christ.These are decisions: “put off/put on.” To put on Christ, you let God’s way of life be your guide—daily. This means behavior.
Our cooperation is necessary.
It also means committing to live for God and then behaving the way we know God wants us to. Our good behavior is the engine of our sanctification–not the source, never the source–it is our cooperation with God’s will. Our part in the process.
Also, notice in verse 23 above: Our mind has a spirit. Our spirit is that deepest, most intimate part of us that communes with God Himself. It is there, really, that we hear from Him and gain precious insights. And, in my own experience, God’s Spirit most readilly uses our intuition to teach us.
Sancification is the process during which we experience the gift of Christ’s righteousness and by which that experience becomes our character.
That gift is eternal and is perfect righteousness. Our shortcomings will never defeat us ultimately because we have His righteousness–He is in us and we are in HIm, forever joined. But God means for us to be perfect. ”Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:49, NASB). He wants us to be like Him so that our character is His character.
And I think you’ll agree, we all have a ways to go to reach perfection.
One important cautionary note:
We Christians do “hear” Jesus’ voice, but discernment–paying attention to His voice and distinguishing it from other voices that vie for our attention–is a matter of learning and maturation. So what I’m saying is to take your time, that is don’t go running off with some wild hunch without confirmation. And by “confirmation” I mean uncontrived incidents that say the same thing as your intuition, your insight. And several of them. The more confirmations the better. And by “uncontrived” I mean don’t try to manufacture confirmations because you want to go in a certain direction. It the word is from the Lord, He will confirm it apart from any efforts of yours.
Also, in this area of Christian intuition, a thorough familiarity with the Bible is indispensable. Any insight from God, of course, will be morally and biblically sound. Plus, the Holy Spirit seems to prefer using Bible verses in our memory to confirm things for us.
Jesus disciples did have the Old Testament to learn from, and they would have the Holy Spirit as a very real indwelling presence within them permanently follwoing Pentecost. Yet Jesus made sure He spent a lot of time with them teaching them, preparing them for life in this world.
To live in the way that God wants us to requires knowledge.
We have to know what to do and how to do it. Then decide to do it. But that knowledge is not just consist of legalistic rules: “do this but don’t do that.” It involves understanding, purified motives, and It goes deeper than merely naming certain acts. Another way of saying that we need to learn from the Lord–in every area of our life, including when we read our BIbles and when we pray.
Have you spent time today in His Word learning at Jesus feet?