Do You Want to Be a New Person? Here’s Some Great Grammatical News

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22

In yesterday's reflection, we focused on the form of the verb in Ephesians 4:23: "[You were taught] to be made new in the attitude of your minds." As you may recall, I explained that "to be made new" is a present infinitive in Greek, which suggests an ongoing process of renewal. When we first become Christians, we are made new by God's Word and Spirit. Yet, our newness isn't complete. We spend the rest of our lives becoming new in many different ways, until, one day, united with Christ, we are completely renewed.

I expect that you already know you're a work in progress. This realization may encourage you because it explains why you're not perfect yet. Or, this thought may discourage you because it seems to imply that you now have one more major item on your to do list: clean the house; fill out tax forms; call Mom; put off old man; put on new man; make self new in Christ.

Yet, this misses another key point of grammar, something that is rooted in the Greek original of Ephesians 4:23 and which also shows up in English. Once more, this verse says, "[You were taught] to be made new in the attitude of your minds." Notice the form of the infinitive: "to be made new." Not "to make new" or "to make yourself new" but "to be made new." The Greek original supports this reading. The form of the infinitive is passive. (Theoretically, it could also be a middle form that would mean "renew yourself," but this translation would be inconsistent with everything else Paul teaches about how we become new in Christ. Surely the infinitive is passive.) What is implied here without being stated could be represented in an expanded translation, "[You were taught] to be made new by God." We don't make ourselves new. God does it.

Yet, by saying we were taught to be made new, this does suggest some role for us in the process. Why should we have been taught this if it happens automatically whether we cooperate or not? We aren't simply and completely passive recipients of spiritual renewal. Rather, we have the opportunity, indeed, the imperative, to open ourselves to the work God seeks to do in us through the Spirit. Conversely, we can close ourselves off to the Spirit's work, thereby precluding or slowing down the renewal that God wants for us. Therefore, we are taught to be open and available, to allow the Lord access to every part of us, including those parts that are most in need of renovation, parts we often keep away from God because of shame or deceitful desire. Yet, when we expose all that we are to the Lord, when we invite him to transform us, then, by grace, he does this very thing, not all at once, but faithfully and consistently.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How open are you to God's renewing work in your life? Now, think again. Really, how open are you to God's renewing work in your life? What parts of you are in need of the renewal that comes from the Lord?

PRAYER: O Lord, how thankful I am for your work in me. Every now and then I try to make myself new. I come up with plans and resolutions. I try and try. But, in the end . . . fail. Only you can make me new inside.

And you do this very thing, thank you very much! Yet you don't barge in. You don't force me to do what I have not chosen. You allow me to open the door to you or, unfortunately, to keep it closed. Help me, Lord, to open all that I am to you. Come in and clean house. Make me new, wholly new, for your purposes and glory. Amen.


Feeling the Love at Work

Do you sometimes wonder if you'll find your dream job? Or do you know someone who wonders if their work really matters? Take a look at our series, Feeling the Love at Work. Or, if you know someone who might appreciate encouragement along these lines, join us at The High Calling.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.