In yesterday’s sermon, we looked at Psalm 40, which is a “Psalm of Reorientation.” This particular psalm talks about some very practical ways we are called to embrace the new life God gives us when we fully embrace His resurrection power. The language King David uses in verse 8 implies that God wants us to take His Word inside of us, to the core of who we are. He wants to transform who we are throughout and wants to make us into a person that looks more like the Resurrected Christ. That, in fact, is what Easter is all about. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “If a few people really believed [in the resurrection] and let it affect the way they move in their earthly activity, a lot of things would change. To live on the basis of the resurrection—that is what Easter means. Most people do not know what their lives are actually based on.”
I said yesterday that the message in Psalm 40 is actually very similar to what the Apostle Paul talks about in the book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 4, Paul is describing what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished for us. He goes on to describe how the resurrection specifically should change the way we live here and now. Paul says in Ephesians 4:22–24, “22Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, 23a life renewed from the inside 24and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” This is the same idea King David talks about in Psalm 40.
What I didn’t get to yesterday is some very practical advice Paul goes on to give the Christians at Ephesus just a few verses later. He is spelling out in plain terms how we can begin to put our old self to death and experience the new life God has for us. Paul says if you used to steal in your former life, you need to find something productive to do with your hands. His advice is to find honest work to do with your hands so that you can share with those in need. This is, if you think about it, a complete reversal of the former life for a thief. Paul then says if you are constantly struggling with your mouth and cutting people down, don’t just stop talking. Instead, he says, you are called to use your mouth as an instrument of redemption to build others up with your language. Again, this is a complete reversal of the former destructive life for someone with loose lips. Finally, Paul says if you are part of a community that is suffering from disunity and divisive habits, put those things to death; but, rather than simply abstaining from the community, be an agent of reconciliation by becoming gentle and modeling forgiveness when you are wronged. In each of these examples, Paul is showing us what it means to “put off” our old self and “put on” our new self in Christ.
So, if you’re still struggling with gossip, Paul might say to instead use your mouth to only build others up. If you are struggling with focusing on the negative, take time to list off five things daily that you are thankful for. If you’ve been in the habit of using or taking advantage of others, go out of your way to serve others in a tangible way. If you lack a zeal for life right now, take on a new adventure or try out a new hobby. This is the goal behind the challenge I issued on Easter Sunday. On Easter I encouraged you to take forty days to celebrate the resurrected life Jesus has given us in a new way. Ascension Sunday is on May 9 this year. Until then, work on putting off an old, destructive habit and replacing it with a new habit that you will find to be life giving.
Where do you sense God working in your life and calling you to surrender? When you reflect on your life, where do you find yourself still wallowing around, as David might say, “in the mud and the mire” of your former way of life? Which habits still exist in your life that do not reflect the new/resurrected life Christ is calling you to? What are some ways you can not only “put off” those old habits, but also “put on” a new, life-giving habit to replace it?