As we discussed on Friday, as we mature in Christ, realizing that everything is not about us, we come to Paul’s next text that contrasts the new life believers have in Christ, as opposed to the “old life” of the world. “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph 4:17-19)
Which brings us to today’s text, “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:20-24)
The first verse “But you have not so learned Christ” points us back to the previous passage admonishing us NOT to “walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart”.
The first chapter in the book of Romans gives us a clear picture of those who hold on to their former selves, and it doesn’t end well for them: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” (Rom 1:18-19)
While God gives us many chances, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom 1:21), eventually God gives them up “to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts” (v 24); “to vile passions” (v 26); and “to a debased mind” (v 28).
Of course as we continue to walk on this sinful earth, we won’t be perfect in our actions, but there should be a noticeable change in us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor 5:17) So we are different in Christ because we have His Spirit in us: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)
And because His Spirit lives in and is at work within us, we are to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph 4:22-23). We have a choice to make daily to live in the futility of our old sinful mind, or to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and… put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:23-24).
The root of our sin is a depraved and futile mind. If we want to gain victory over sin, we need to get rid of that futile mind and get a renewed mind. When Paul says, put off the old person and put on the new person, he is not talking about an optional elective that some true Christians enroll in and others don’t. This is the core curriculum in the teaching of Christ. It is a requirement for graduation. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Therefore, “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness”. (Eph. 4:24)
The great news is that we aren’t required to make our own moral clothing: God creates the new person that we must put on. I am given the assignment to become holy; but then I am told that God creates my holiness. In the school of grace God creates the new person—and that includes all the new attitudes and emotions and practices that we are supposed to put on.
Jesus Himself told us how He creates holiness in us so that we are able to produce fruit for His kingdom: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5) Stay in His Word, pray without ceasing, and He will make changes within you, because we need to submit to His power and authority to change us.
Heavenly Father, thank You that by believing on Christ I have been made a new creation and that my new life has been created in Your likeness. Lord, I know that I have been created in righteousness and holiness and pray that You would help me to walk in spirit and truth. Help me to put off all my former way of life, which would quench the working of Your Spirit within. In Jesus precious name, amen.