We’ve all seen them, the infomercials on Saturday morning that promise to revamp everything about you. Are you fat? (I’ve given up on political correctness). There’s a product to make you look like a stick. Are you depressed? There’s something to make you grin from ear to ear. Are you too hairy? There’s something you can use to take the hair right off. Plus, there’s more good news. It will never grow back. Do you not have enough hair? You guessed it. There is good news. There’s something you can use to revive your healthy, hairy prime. All of these ads are accompanied by before and after pictures. Although comical at times, the intent is to show the unbelievable transformation that will be made. In all actuality, very few of these products deliver what they promise. Pay close attention the next time you see a before and after picture. It’s amazing what good lighting, good posture, fashionable style, and a tan will do for a person.
In Ephesians 4, Paul gives us the before and after picture of Christianity, but there are no tricks or gimmicks here. This is a real life change. The before picture is dreary and depressing. The after picture is glorious and godly. The first section of Ephesians, chapters 1-3, explain principles and doctrine. The last part of Ephesians, chapters 4-6, deals with practice and duty. Essentially, Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1, “Now you know what Christ has done for you. Therefore, live in such a way that His name is glorified!” There must be a change, a radical change. Not a change caused by visual illusions, but a true transformation of the most important kind. Let’s look at the person before and after Christ.
The Before Picture
First, people without Christ live in vanity. They walk “in the futility of their mind” (Eph. 4:17). Without Christ there is no fulfillment. The person trying to find happiness without Christ is like a kid chasing a bubble. As soon as he thinks he has it…where did it go?
Second, people without Christ live in ignorance (Eph. 4:18). This is not for a lack of intelligence or of knowledge. It is a willful ignorance. This section of Ephesians is like the Cliffs Notes of Romans 1. There we read “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom. 1:28).
Third, life without Christ leads to callousness (Eph. 4:19). If you are not accustomed to an activity, it is unpleasant at first, even downright painful. But over time it becomes routine. Anybody that has played guitar can attest to this. It hurts at first, but over time calluses develop on the fingers, and it is no longer uncomfortable. Sin is much the same. The first time a person engages in something he knows is wrong, it hurts. There is regret. The second time, it still hurts but not quite as badly. This process continues until a person is past feeling.
Fourth, because of calluses there is total immorality (Eph. 4:19). There is no shame or sense of propriety (lewdness). They have defiled themselves (uncleanness), and they cannot get enough (greediness).
This is an accurate picture of a person in the world. A vain life leads to rebellion. Rebellion leads to calloused living. Calloused living leads to a life without shame or moral compass.
The After Picture
First, they have learned Christ (Eph. 4:20). “But you have not so learned Christ” implies that they have learned Him. These people have a new life because they have a new Lord. Whereas previously they were serving themselves, they have now given themselves over to His will. Until a person knows Christ, there is no reason for change. That’s why Paul through the Spirit doesnot
tell them how to live until after three chapters of Christian doctrine. Knowledge motivates.
Second, they live to a new standard. “…truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). The life of vanity has ceased. The life of willful ignorance has ceased. Now, they live in the absolute truth of Jesus Christ.
Third, they have a new lifestyle (Eph. 4:22). Their old way of life has been laid aside. This is an ongoing, daily process. There is no room for procrastination when it comes to putting off the old man. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17).
Fourth, they have a new thought process (Eph. 4:23). “…and that you may be renewed in the spirit of your mind” mirrors Romans 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
The question we must all ask is this: “Do I look like the before picture or the after picture?”