Putting on the New Self: Thoughts on Ephesians 4 (Part 2)

January 20, 2020

In the last post, we saw that our old selves are full of deceitful desires that lie to us over and over again. They need to be slung off like a dirty old shirt. Our new selves are to reflect the image of Christ in righteousness and holiness (a much more attractive look). According to Ephesians 4:20-24, we have the job of putting them on. But how? Paul uses the rest of the chapter to tell us, and in summary, he says: 

Don’t just stop doing the bad stuff; start doing the good stuff.

Now that might sound like empty moralism, and it would be without Christ. But through the gospel, we’ve been declared righteous and given the power to say no to our natural inclinations and yes to the righteousness that God loves.

He even gives some practical examples:

  • If you steal or take from people, don’t just stop doing that and keep what you have. Do the opposite and share. Give things away! Work for the good of others instead of yourself (v. 28).
  • If you tend to slander and gossip, don’t just stop tearing people down, but find ways to build them up. Your words can actually give grace to others. Use them that way (v. 29).
  • If you struggle with bitterness and anger, don’t just repent of those sins and move into neutral. Be actively kind and forgiving, imitating Christ (v. 31-32). 

These acts of obedience, which directly counteract the deceitful desires we talked about last week, make us look like Christ. And that will bring joy to us, to him, and to others.

It won’t be easy. Our sinful natures will resist. The grimy shirt will cling. It will hurt coming off. But Christ has already broken the power of sin at Calvary, giving us the ability to obey. When we do, the relief is sweet. 

What part of your “old man” is hardest for you to put off?

Is it envy? Is there someone you can’t even look at without resenting all God’s given her? Ephesians would suggest looking for a way to honor or encourage that person in front of others. It will feel terrible and wonderful at the same time–the scrabbling exit of sin will become the gracious entry of holiness. That is the Christian life. Out with the old and in with the new. 

Is it complaining? Do you find yourself noticing and speaking the negative about every situation? Tell the Lord, out loud, five things you are grateful for. Freedom will flood your soul.

Is it wasting time on technology? Do you reach for cheap entertainment rather than the pleasures of God?  Delete the offending apps for a month and lay your open Bible on the kitchen counter. Show the “old man” he isn’t welcome anymore, and you aren’t going to play nice this time. Living the new life is worth it.

Sometimes our stubborn, remaining sin can discourage us, and we doubt that real change is possible. But that doubt belittles the precious blood of Jesus, and besides, Paul would say, “That is not the way you learned Christ (v. 20)! 

Christ has purchased our new lives for us with his precious blood. Now all we need to do is live them.

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