“…change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were…”
Ephesians 4:22 (Common English Bible)
Paul is writing about intentional activity. Paul is asking that we purposefully live differently than we did before deciding to follow Jesus. Simply, at one time we behaved one way, now we are to behave in a different way. Change is not something that occurs for the wishing. We must set our minds to it – and our feet. We are to walk a different walk.
A careful reading of chapter four and five of Ephesians reveals that what Paul is concerned with is life change. Our lives are to be lived differently because of Jesus. That includes unwholesome talk and bitterness and being unkind to each other. Nearly everything Paul has to say here in these two chapters of Ephesians has to do with what kind of jokes we tell, how our conversations go and all the little things that reveal whether we are just like everyone else or something more because of Jesus.
Naturally, this requires constant monitoring; constant self-awareness of our motives, thoughts and behavior. It sound exhausting, doesn’t it? That is because sin is so pervasive. Great effort is required. But isn’t it true that anything of value must follow great effort? The good news of our faith is that we are not alone; that we don’t depend upon our own strength alone. With our effort, we are met by an uncommon strength in God’s activity in our lives. That presence of God, active in our effort, is what the church calls the Holy Spirit.