Growing up I played Australian rules football. But I was also interested in other sports, such as hockey, athletics, even rugby union. My brothers and I, along with other kids in the neighbourhood would set up games of either Aussie rules or rugby and play it out on our front lawn. But if you’re going to excel at something, you need to focus on that thing. Once that occurs it becomes difficult to transition to another code. We’ve seen that with Rugby league players trying to transition into Australian rules. They may have had the stamina and athletic ability, but the simple basic skills were always lacking. It was easier for them to revert to their old code than persevere with the new.
This same image applies to all of use whenever we look to change our way of life. Think of the many times you have decided to embrace a diet regime. You get fired up, buy all the things you need, and a month later it all starts to wane as you decide chocolate isn’t the devil’s food and sugar isn’t that bad after all. How many fitness resolutions do people make at new years only to find that by the time January is done the gym membership seems a waste of money because you can’t find the time to show up. We struggle to change our ways, habits, behaviours, attitudes, and lifestyles. We loved the feel of being comfortable, even if comfortable is killing us.
As Paul continues his letter to Ephesus he moves on to talk about what goring into the image of Jesus looks like. He reminds them of their old ways, of living in darkness, of succumbing to their sensuality, of deceitful desires, and urges them to put these aside. He challenges them to put aside anger, theft, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage fighting, slander and malice of every form, to not let the devil take a foothold. Instead, if you are to be people growing into maturity in Christ, put on Christ himself. Know that you are created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. Do something useful with your work, so you can serve others in need. Speak in a way that builds up another, that shows compassion, forgiveness, and love. Follow the example of Jesus as you grow into his image as church.
The Christian life has many challenges. It demands we practice and function in a uniquely transformative manner. That what we do individually and as church must always reflect our ongoing journey of growth into the image of Jesus whose presence is the fullness of the church upon which it is built. Yet we struggle with this. It is much easier to argue and be bitter over things than to embrace grace and forgiveness. It is much easier to slander another behind closed doors, than it is to speak in positive and empowering ways abut them. It is easier to argue, bicker, brawl, and steal, than it is to love and serve in a way that demonstrates o7ur life with Jesus. Too often we allow the devil to take a foothold in our lives, and in the life of our churches, and then wonder why we are split, dysfunctional, and dying churches.
If it is hard for us to maintain this response to grace, imagine how much harder it is for the non-Christian to suddenly change a way of life they have become comfortably familiar with. That’s why it is so important that we who have had many years along this faith journey need to be very particular about how our lives demonstrate a humble response to what Christ has done for us. Only as we live the life to which we are called, can we hope for new Christians to join us. How we live is always a response to the Gospel we have been freely given. As Christ’s life and sacrifice became a fragrant offering to God, so our lives we become a fragrant offering to those who desperately need to know the hope of a life filled with grace, love and promise.,