New Life in Christ, part 4
In Ephesians, we have been looking at living a new life in Christ. We now come to verse 22 which is where Paul gets into the “how to” part of this experience. He expounds on what it means to come into relationship with Christ and what true conversion looks like. Sadly, today conversion is seen as…well, nothing. There is no conversion, transformation, or regeneration. Only the “believe in Jesus” message is shared on a very surface level. No commitment, death to our old ways which consist of open rebellion against God and His ways, or anything along those lines. Many are told to just add Jesus to their belief system and go about their life as “normal.” What does Scripture say, though? Is Jesus one we just say we believe in without having Him and His message radically change our life? According to Paul, there is a major transition that takes place. Just look at what he says about coming into relationship with Christ.
17Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come! (2 Cor.5:17 Amplified Bible)
It is this transition that we will look in detail at in this article. Paul uses a very familiar and simple analogy of taking off old dirty clothes and putting on new clothes to describe this new life in Christ. Let us now go to the Scriptures.
Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; (Ephesians 4:22)
So this putting off of our old self speaks of our life’s habits, attitudes, way of thinking, actions, etc. before knowing Christ. In fact that is what the “old self” is. It is our unredeemed Adamic nature that has yet to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s word’s to the Colossians makes this clear as we see in the following passage of scripture.
3For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.4When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.5So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God).6It is on account of these [very sins] that the [holy] anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience (those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will),7Among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to [such practices]. 8But now put away and rid yourselves [completely] of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips!9Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices… (Col. 3:3-9 Amplified Bible)
In the next article we will expound on what we are to put on. However, it is important to see first what we are to put off, as you would not want to put new clothes on over your dirty clothes without CHANGING out of the old first. This idea of putting off and putting on is seen in other places that Paul writes as well. In fact we see him cover it from a slightly different angle to the Romans who were familiar with Roman guards and soldiers attire:
12The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light. (Rom. 13:12 Amplified Bible)
In this passage we see that what we put on is armor–perhaps what he alludes to as “the full armor of God in Ephesians. We may look at this concept more in detail when discussing what we are to “put on.” Let us look at some other scriptures before moving on to perhaps shed some light on the subject at hand…removal of our “old self.”
6We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body [which is the instrument] of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. (Rom. 6:6 Amplified)
1THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, 2Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].
(Heb. 12:1-2 Amplified)
I like what we read in Hebrews because it clarifies the fact that it is only by focusing on Jesus that this takes place. He is the one who changes us. We cannot on our own efforts just decide to “do better.” It is only by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit that this change takes place but we are to do our part and cooperate with Him in our lives. I will let God explain this Himself through this exhortation to the Philippians.
12Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).13[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while [effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. (Phil.2:12-13 Amplified)
Notice verse 13 says “Not in your own strength.” That is where a lot of people miss it. They hear messages about change perhaps like this article and think: “OK, I need to change, I need to be a better Christian,” and then they attempt to perfect holiness on their own through human effort. That is something that will only bring frustration, despair, and disappointment. Paul addresses this to the Galatians who were being pressured by the religious to add works (human effort) to Christ and what was accomplished on the cross. Let us look at the following passages to see Paul’s thoughts on the matter.
1 O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? 2Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] 3Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh? Gal.3:1-3 Amplified Bible
We must learn to simply yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and partner with Him. Remember, Jesus said he would leave us a “helper” which implies we need help.
So after discussing putting off our old self, Paul gets to what I personally believe is the most important key to all of this: the renewal of our minds. The mind is the “control center” of our lives. Change your mind and you will change your course of life. Just look at the role the mind has played in this series thus far. In verse 17 Paul discussed not walking in the “futility of our minds” like those who do not know God. Verse 18 he says those who do not know God are “darkened in their understanding” and speaks of their “ignorance that is in them”…both dealing with the mind in some regards. Verse 20 says “that is not the way you learned Christ” and speaks of being “taught in Him” all of which deals with the mind in one aspect or another so I think it is safe to say the mindset is the key. A renewed enlightened mindset is what we need. It is for this reason Paul says the following to the Romans.
2Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. (Rom.12:2)
Again we see the Scriptural truth here that “where the mind goes, the man follows.” The world is constantly trying to mold us into its image and it does so by attacking the mind. This is the same for God. If he can “get our minds” so to speak, he can get us. That is why Jesus mentions loving God “with all your mind.” In fact Scripture has much to say about our minds and the condition of the mind, a study of which I would encourage you to do on your own. It is not enough to simply “put off the old”, but we must “put on the new”. This concept can be applied to our entire course of life with Christ but we must understand it for what it is in context. He is not so much telling us as Christians what to do, but what was done upon coming to Christ.
This whole speech on putting off the old, renewal of the mind, and putting on the new is conversion language although it does continue to manifest in greater ways as we walk closer with the Lord (it speaks of justification and sanctification). There will always be things not of Him that we will be convicted to “put off” and things we will be compelled to “put on”. In regards to this being language that describes our conversion (past experience) we need only look at the Colossians account where Paul speaks of this in past tense. He says: “You have put off the old self.”
In the following article, we will bring balance to this teaching as we will see what we “put on” and may we have a deeper understanding of what it is to live “new life in Christ.”