Christian Virtue Or…

… why eschatology is the most important thing you never talked about in youth group.

The language in which Ephesians 4 speaks of pursuing Christian virtue (or, if you prefer, “sanctification”) is the imagery of changing clothing. Sort of. Put off the old humanity so that you can be renewed by the Spirit and put on the new humanity.

This is not at root an exercise in self-actualization–it is an exercise in Spiritual Christization. The old self is not just the you with whom you wish to part company, it is the old humanity, in the first Adam, the humanity that has been given a new beginning with the second Adam.

New Self Squishes Old Self

That’s why the passage goes on to speak of the new human with whom we clothe ourselves as one created (note the language of creation–God is doing again what he once did at the beginning) according to God’s image (note the creation language again).

To be made holy, to be renewed after the image of God, is nothing less than to know now, in part, the future that awaits us in Christ. In other words, sanctification is inaugurated eschatology.

The end that yet awaits us has begun to make itself known as it reaches back to transform the present.

And to say this much is also to call us to a humility about who we are without the transforming work of the Spirit that is too often missing today. We seem, even in the church, quite prone to affirming our innate desires as the work of the Spirit of God.

But Ephesians 4 raises a warning flag for us.

Too often, the desires that drive us here on earth are the desires of old humanity, in need of its final death and resurrection. Too often we are driven by our desires to control, to possess–the enslaving lusts and darkness of mind from which the light of the world delivers us.

The yet-to-come Kingdom is good news–because we are a people in need of wholesale renovation.

And God has given this to us, and will give it to us, by the Spirit of the resurrected Christ renewing us after that same Messiah’s image.

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