“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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 4:20-24
There was a way of life that I learned before I knew Jesus. Growing up, watching those in my family, my neighborhood, at school and elsewhere, there was a way of understanding myself, others and God that I was learning. I was learning how to process information and interpret my experiences. I didn’t realize I was learning a way of life, I was simply living, existing, surviving, and trying to have some fun in the process.
If, in Christ, we are a new creation, then that means there was an old creation. If we are a work in progress, that means we started in one place or state and are moving toward or becoming something else.
In Ephesians, Paul is explaining in part what it means to live as this new creation. He’s given examples of the old that is gone from within us, but still exists in the world around us. He says there is a former way of life, an old self. This old self and way of life was full of corruption and deceitful desires. Peter refers to these desires as evil. (2 Peter 1:4)
Part of this “work in progress” that we are experiencing is the learning to discern between the old way of life before Christ and this new way of life in Christ. As we begin to understand what God wants for us, certain things will look different. As we become familiar with Jesus, we will recognize attitudes, motivations and actions that look like Him and those that are the opposite of what we know to be true about Him.
As I mentioned in my blog A Work in Progress, there are things that will change because the Holy Spirit now lives inside you. There are also things that you will need to choose to do differently. This choosing is the putting-off of the old self and the putting-on of the new self. There are things we need to remove from our lives and hearts in order to make room for more of Jesus.
If we listen to music or read materials with vulgar or offensive language, we are more likely to use that language ourselves. We teach ourselves to talk this way. When we choose to listen to music, teachings, or read materials that encourage and honor God and others, we are more likely to speak in this same way. We teach ourselves to encourage and honor rather than offend.
There are also the deeper issues of our hearts. When we learn that resentment and bitterness cause us to hold grudges and not forgive, we need to instead choose kindness and compassion forgiving those who’ve hurt us, letting go of all that keeps us angry and hard-hearted. This is why repentance is so important. Repentance says I recognize my own sinful nature (the corrupt and deceitful desires within me), and am choosing to put it off and put on Christ and His righteousness.
In Christ, we learn there is a new way to live. There is a new way to think, a new way to participate in relationships with others and with God. There is a new way to respond to what we experience in this lifetime. And we have an active role in how this happens in our lives.
Something to Consider…
As you think back on your life before Christ, what did you learn about how to live? Who taught you and how did it affect you and your relationships?
What is God giving you to “put on” in this season of your life? What do you know you need to “put off” in order for it to be effective?
Even though we must choose to do this, the Holy Spirit is always with us helping us to know what needs to be done and giving us the strength to do it.