One of my favorite shows to watch is the Biggest Loser. Every Tuesday night, me and my wife look forward to sitting on the couch, eating some ice cream, and watching people workout. Now don’t judge me because I’m scarfing down cookies and cream Blue Bell ice cream while watching the Biggest Loser. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s something about eating ice cream while watching people workout that makes it so much sweeter. Now eating ice cream during the Biggest Loser isn’t the only reason why I love the show, and in fact, I have two reasons why I love it so much. The first reason is personal. The Biggest Loser has encouraged me and my wife to start our own journey to lose weight. Currently, I have already lost 10 pounds in 8 weeks doing p90x. My starting weight was 225 and my goal is to lose 45 pounds so I can reach my target weight of 180. The Biggest Loser gave me and my wife the encouragement we needed to stop being lazy and do something about our weight. We want to be in shape so we can be active as a family and be better ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No joke, youth ministry (or any ministry for that matter) can be killer on overweight people, and me and my wife want to be able to give our best to each other, our family, and the ministry God has given us.
The second reason why I love the Biggest Loser is because of the episode they always have called “makeover week.” The makeover show happens during the halfway point in the series. And the reason why they do this for the contestants is so they can see how much they have changed over the course of x amount of weeks. Some of these contestants have lost between 60 to 100 pounds, and they now look dramatically different. So the show takes them out, buys them new outfits, gives them a new look, and celebrates all their hard work. But the point of makeover week is to show these contestants their new self, and gives them a glimpse of the new person they are becoming when their journey is over. Makeover week is powerful, and gives the contestants even more of a reason to push themselves harder when they workout. Now I say all of this because I believe the Apostle Paul is trying to convey this same idea to believers in Ephesians 4:17-32.
In verse 17-24, Paul is following up his thoughts on believers growing up in Christ. If we are to grow up in Christ, we cannot continuing being like everyone else in the world. I believe this is one of the hardest concepts for us as believers to truly grasp. If we are in Christ, then we no longer get to be like everyone else. We are called to a way of living that benefits ourselves and everyone around us. We no longer get to be another face in the crowd, the average joe, or someone who just gets by, but instead, we are a light to the world and a city on hill (Matt. 5:14-16) in whatever perspective field we are in. God is calling everyone of us to be shinning examples of how its supposed to be like, but in order for us to do that, we must put off our old self (our old way of thinking), and put on our new self (our new way of thinking).
For a true makeover to take place, we have to see what we looked like before the transformation took place, and if you don’t believe me, think about every show that makeovers a person, house, car, etc. The audience is always shown a picture before the transformation has taken place, so the audience can be wowed when they see the finished product. This is what Paul is doing when you read verses 17-19, he’s showing the Ephesian believers an old picture of themselves so they can see what they looked liked, and be able to recognize how far their transformation in Christ has come. So what’s the picture of our old selves look like? Paul writes our old selves had a dark understanding of the world around us. We were ignorant of our sin that kept us away from having a relationship with Christ. And because we didn’t understand what our sin was doing to us, our hearts had no problem allowing ourselves to practice every type of impurity that brought us harm (v.17-19). To sum it all up, we were a lost cause. Not only were we spiritually lost because we didn’t have a relationship with Christ, we were also physically and emotionally lost because we gave ourselves up to whatever seemed like a good direction at the time, but really wasn’t.
In verse 20, Paul writes one of the most profound statements in scripture, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!” To be honest, there is a wrong way to learn Christ, and we need to be aware of that. When we learn about Christ the wrong way, we become ineffective disciples, which causes us to give everyone a bad taste of Christianity. So what is this wrong way? Paul says the wrong way to learn Christ is when we continue to put on our “old selves,” who act like we never knew salvation, instead of putting on our “new selves,” which is like God in true righteousness and holiness(v.22-24). With all that said, in verses 25-32 Paul shows the Ephesian believers what their new makeover looks like. The new us puts away all manner of false living, and instead, we live truth. The way we live truth is by building up our neighbors by the way we speak to them. If we have a profession that does dishonest work, then we give it up and find a profession that works with honesty and integrity. Furthermore, we don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by allowing bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, and malice control the way we treat others, and instead, we love others the way Christ loved us (v.32). To sum it up, if we want to learn Christ the right way, then we have to put on the “new self.”
Makeovers are great, and I can’t wait to lose all of my weight so I can give myself one, but do you really want to know why makeovers are so powerful? Its not because you get to buy new clothes, get all dressed up, and have people ooh and awe over you. Makeovers are powerful because of what they represent: a brand new beginning, and that’s why church matters. Church is the place that provides people with the chance to have a brand new start in life. God calls us to come together and pull our resources, so we can give makeovers to everyone who needs it. I’ve seen what happens when a church gives someone a new beginning, and it truly is one of the most beautiful sights to ever see. New beginnings only happen because people allow God’s grace to capture them, and in return, extends God’s grace to others. So if you need a new beginning, then go to church because God has provided you a group of people who can give you one.
Now there are three things we need to understand about our new beginning: (1) just because Christ provides us with grace, it doesn’t mean we do whatever we want; knowing God will forgive us regardless. If you’re constantly repenting for the same mistake over and over again, then you’re not learning Christ the right way, and you’re still putting on the “old self.” God provides us with grace because he remembers we are human, and he knows we’ll have our moments where we will fail. And its in those moments of failure that grace truly abounds, because we realize how much we still need Christ, and how amazing his love is for his willingness to forgive us. Always keep in mind, Christ did not provide us with grace so we can continue being disobedient children. (2) Grace doesn’t mean we won’t face the consequences of our wrong doings. Paul teaches in Galatians we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:6-10), and if we choose to do what is wrong, we can expect a bad consequence. However, grace does mean if we have failed, our failure doesn’t define our new beginning. God’s grace gives us the strength to accept what we did wrong, make corrections, and continue in our new direction in life. Finally (3) to keep the “new self” on, we will have to work at it. God gives us a glimpse of our makeover so we can be encouraged to continue working towards the way he sees us. God’s grace gives us all the tools we need to reach this goal, but we have to do our part to work with God, and use the tools he has provided for us. For example, p90x is the tool that has been given to me to reach my target weight of 180 pounds. However, when I reach my target weight, I can’t stop using p90x, or working out for that matter, and hope I will stay healthy the rest of my life. To stay healthy, I have to make a lifestyle change and continue working out to maintain my goal weight. Grace is a lifestyle we need to embrace and work at daily. And in the end, we know this lifestyle is worth it, because we have already seen the results, and they are truly amazing.