Yesterday marked 28 years for me as a preacher. My first work was with the Oak Hill church outside of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and my first Sunday with them was May 14, 1989. I have many wonderful memories of the people there, and love seeing them every time I get the chance to go back and preach in the area. An added blessing for me during that time was the friendship of fellow minister John Smith, who preached nearby in my hometown of Winchester. We got together almost every week, sharing sermon ideas over lunch. In this post I want to pass along one of his ideas that I think is great. But first, some background.
In Ephesians 4:22-24 Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus of what he taught them in Christ (v. 21):
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Learning about Christ, in other words, necessarily involves a transformation. The old hymn says that God will take me “just as I am” – but He doesn’t leave me just as I am. He raises me from death to life and then calls upon me to reflect that change in status by a change in conduct. In the next several verses (4:25-5:2), Paul goes into detail as to what this transformation looks like, particularly in the context of our relationships with each other (“we are members one of another.” v. 25).
Now to John’s idea. He suggested looking at the vices we must lay aside and the virtues we must embrace in the context of marriage. This makes sense – after all, if the qualities found in Ephesians 4:25-5:2 are essential to good relationships between Christians, and marriage is the most intimate of all relationships, then it only stands to reason that what Paul says here would be doubly pertinent in marriage.
So what does it look like to “put on the new self” in marriage?
Be honest with each other.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (4:25).
Don’t let anger go unresolved.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil (4:26-27).
Work hard to give, not to get.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need (4:28).
Communicate in ways that build up rather than tear down.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (4:29-30).
Be tenderhearted and forgiving.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (4:31-32).
Love like Christ.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (5:1-2).
If you are married, let me suggest that you take a few minutes each night this week and read this passage with your spouse. It will make an enormous difference in your relationship.
And John, thanks!