“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 4:22–24)
Putting off the old and putting on the new is the principle by which the possibilities that are in Christ can become evident in our experience. Notice there is a recognition of the pull of the old life on the Christian. The admonition of the apostle is to be constantly recognizing and rejecting these false, underlying assumptions that come from the old self, the old way of living. It is not merely deeds, you will notice, but outlooks and attitudes. This is what causes the problem, and this is what we must reject.
Put off means to divest yourself of something, to take it off. Paul is using the simplest of terms to illustrate what we must do in the realm of thought, of the attitudes of life. We must reject those basic assumptions that have caused our trouble—putting them off, rejecting them, divesting ourselves of them—just as you would put off your dirty clothes.
We must do this because the corruption of life comes from these wrong attitudes. Paul says the former manner of life is corrupt—decayed, dead, foul, selfish, unhappy, restless. These are the things that have made life unhappy or miserable. He points out we can recognize these attitudes by the way they operate. They are “deceitful lusts.” Unfortunately, this word lust is greatly misunderstood in our day. We invariably associate it with something sexual. But this word is much broader than that. It means any urge or basic drive. We will get closer to the essential meaning of this word if we use the term urge. These deceitful urges are constantly coming to us as we react to various situations in which we find ourselves.
The first step in experiencing what God intends for us is to recognize that. Put off the old. That is the first step. The other is to recognize the wonderful possibilities of the new life. In that phrase, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds,” you have the fundamental difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. It is true that non-Christians sometimes realize that things are wrong in their lives, and so they change them. But they merely change to another expression of the same basic egocentricity. They change the outer form, but the problem remains basically the same.
But of all human beings, Christians alone have the possibility of doing something entirely different, living by an entirely different principle, because they have been renewed in the attitude of their minds. And that happens in the regenerated life as the Spirit of God comes into the heart that believes in Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we are renewed in the attitudes of our minds. The new self is in the likeness of God: it is the life of God; it is the image of Jesus Christ; it is His life lived in you. So put on that kind of life, because it is available to you.
Father, help me to understand and put into practice this great principle of putting off the old self and putting on the new.