“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
(Ephesians 4:16–24 ESV)
As believers in Jesus, we are called to think differently – if you’ve ever noticed the way non-believers live their lives – sometimes we are shocked when they sin so openly – why? In a sense they don’t know any better because their minds are darkened and their hearts are hardened.
We see a contrast in how believers in Jesus are to be thinking and living – three important things – (1) put off sin (2) renew the way we think and (3) Put on new self
The old self belongs to the old way of thinking, the hard heart, the non-believing heart and we are called to put it off. We are called to think in line with how we are as new creatures in Christ. Align our thoughts with the spiritual reality of who we are. – this is work that we are called to do – Jesus has done the perfect work on the cross, but now we are called to do the spiritual work of living up to the reality of who we are in Chirst. That leads us to number 3 – we are created in the likeness of God, but in Chirst we are righteous and holy – we “put on” (as in outward actions) our new self – we wear it out – the last part of our passage tells us what that looks like:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:24–32 ESV)
Let our lives be outwardly characterized by speaking truth and not lies, not letting anger and other emotions rule our actions, doing honest work, being a responsible contributor to others’ needs. Watching our words – are they corrupting? (tearing down?) or building up (and giving grace to everyone, by standards included). Are we bitter? or are we kind, tenderhearted, forgiving?
All of this is because of what God has done or us in Jesus – we did nothing to attract him – we only offer our sin, and in the grace and love of God in Jesus he restores us, reconciles us, forgives us. How much should that dictate the way we live our lives? Not walking in the old self, but continuously renewing our minds to align ourselves to our new spiritual selves in Jesus.