There are numerous secular recovery programs that help many people to reform their lives. But only Jesus Christ gives us an entirely new life. That new life is one of total transformation from darkness into “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). We must make sure we don’t stop short of this goal.
When is a thief no longer a thief? When he stops stealing? Society, the world, and our culture might settle for that response. But Paul provides a higher standard. A thief is no longer a thief when he not only has stopped stealing but also is seeking hard work as a means of sharing with those in need (see 4:28).
Paul offers many similar contrasts in this passage. Most of us can probably find our “former way of life” and our “old self” (4:22) in his writings. However, running down the road to recovery while looking over our shoulder results in a lot of unnecessary bruises. So as we advance down the road of recovery, it’s crucial that we also identify our “new self.”
Recovery is forward-looking. We entered recovery in the first place because we’ve experienced the damaging dangers of the darkness (see 4:17-19). Every single child of the light was, after all, like ourselves, “once darkness” (5:8). We’re discovering that we can “put off [our] old self . . . to be made new . . . created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22-24). We are in the process of becoming an accurate reflection of God. Our goal is to “live as children of light . . . and find out what pleases the Lord” (5:8, 10).