Paul is calling his reader to come away from the practices of the ordinary Gentile. The new believer is not to follow the practices of Jews or Gentiles, but of Christ.
The main difference between Jew and Gentile was whom they served. Most people, even today, if asked if there is some kind of “higher power” will say there is. But the problem arises in what or who they attribute that position to. In the ancient world there were MANY gods being served. All but one were false gods. Those were the gods of the Gentiles. The One True God was the God of the Jews.
The Jews were the first to officially know Him but they weren’t the first to seek something bigger than themselves. I believe we all have a “God spot” in us that cries out to be filled. What it is filled with makes all the difference.
Paul has been cautioning his readers not to become like the religious Jews who tried to please God through their actions. But he also cautions them to not continue acting like the godless Gentiles who only try to please themselves, living their lives fulfilling fleshly desires.
The believer’s life is to be different from both these forms. We are to recognize that our actions don’t save us but that they do matter. Our actions are to reflect the changed life. We are to conduct ourselves as Jesus would. Not because you think you will get His attention and win His favor, but because you love Him and want Him to be proud of you. “So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead” (James 2:17). This is putting feet to your faith.
Paul specifically list several things he wants his readers to be on guard against in their own lives. He warns against anger that leads one into sin, lying, stealing or cheating, and swearing or “corrupting talk” (I believe he would have put gossip in this category).
He also told them not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (verse 30). I believe his next words were given to show us exactly how we do inflict grief on the Holy Spirit. He lists for us several attitudes to avoid. “Let all bitterness and wrath and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (verse 31). These attitudes, when allowed to continue in our lives cause the Holy Spirit pain. He cries for you and what you are doing. We break His heart when we don’t listen to His correction on these attitudes. And the longer we ignore His pleading for us to walk away the harder our hearts become, until one day we won’t even hear Him calling out to us. I believe that is when God cries. The child that He loves so deeply has stopped up his own ears and won’t listen.
There is still hope though. Jesus paid the price even for that sin. He is ready to open His arms to welcome you back in. That’s when God dances. I would much rather see Him dance that cry.
Father God, I’m so sorry for all the times I’ve made You cry. You never gave up on me even when I was pulling away. I’m so glad I’m not saved by my works! I would fail miserably. I’m also so grateful that the Holy Spirit moves my heart to live as You want me to. I don’t want to live any way except Your way. Help me honor You with my deeds. Not for salvation but for gratitude and an expression of the change You’ve done in me.