In Ephesians 4.1–6, Paul writes:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
What kind of life is worthy of the calling we have received? Far too many of us avoid asking this of ourselves. Why? Because we do not want to change our behavior. We rejoice in the forgiveness we receive through Christ. It relieves us of feelings of guilt and shame that we carry around because of past sins. But we ignore and resist the Holy Spirit when he tries to show us current sins we need to work on because we feel too good doing them.
Consider Christians and extramarital sex, for example. According to the Bible, the marriage bed is “undefiled” (Hebrews 13.4). This means that the proper environment for the expression of human sexuality is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. In a biblical perspective, any expression of human sexuality outside of that context is “sexually immoral and adulterous.” The Bible is quite clear on this subject, and as Christians, we are obligated to obey it. (Of course, grace forgives past disobedience and empowers present and future obedience.)
Now, we all know Christians who have received God’s grace and express a desire to do his will. And yet, they are continue to sleep around with someone to whom they are not married. They like the grace of forgiveness, but they dislike the grace of moral transformation. According to the Bible, however, such behavior falls far short of the life worthy of the calling we have received.
I’ve used sexual immorality as an example because it’s so obvious. But of course, I could write the same thing about hatred, pride, bigotry, greed, and gluttony—all of which Christians also practice. All of us, whatever our sin, need to experience the transforming power of grace.
How do we do this? Paul offers three clues:
- Be humble before God. The grace of transformation begins to work in our lives when we realize that God’s wisdom rather than our personal preferences offers the best guidance for our lives.
- Be patient with others. The transforming work of grace takes time. So, as we seek to change, we ought to “bear with one another in love.”
- Seek unity with fellow believers. Our desire to do our own thing rather than God’s will separates us from the loving help other believers. A key mark of your willingness to change is thus whether you are willing to listen to the counsel and advice of others.