Summary: We were recreated in His likeness; what was lost in the Fall was restored. Holiness, righteousness, and truth. (#19 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“…and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
We spent the last several minutes of the last sermon in this series, talking about having our minds renewed as to the difference between our old corrupt nature, and the creation of the new man, which each believer is.
You may remember my illustration of my friend Sheri, who had lost over 50 unwanted pounds, yet still saw herself as fat for months afterward, until one day she came past a mirror unexpectedly, and, being caught by surprise, saw for the first time what she really looked like.
Having discussed these things in the previous sermon, I don’t want to belabor the point. But I felt it necessary to come back to it as our primary focus today, because our understanding of this is vital to a full and accurate comprehension of the verses to come next, even to the end of this chapter.
PUTTING OFF AND PUTTING ON
There are some things that we have to be clear on before we can proceed, concerning the putting off of the old self, and the putting on of the new.
First, we note that Paul is calling for us to do something here. (and I’m backing up to verse 22 to bring this in) “…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.”
Then in verse 24 he says to put on the new. Now there is a sense in which the change within us comes completely from God. I’m going to discuss that in detail in a few minutes, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It must be made clear to those who think that it is the Christian’s duty to pray, “God, please take away my tendencies toward my old habits and my old lifestyle, and I’ll just wait here while you do that”, that Paul is clearly telling the Christian that it’s his or her job to put off the old man, from which those things spring.
This, I think, is where most of us get hung up. We’re focusing on the actions and behaviors that mark the old nature, and trying to deal with them as they come up, or, as I said a minute ago, we plead with the Lord in our weakness, to remove those things from us.
But that’s not the way Jesus deals with the problem, you see. We want to keep tossing chlorine into the stream as it rushes by, in an attempt to purify the water. But Jesus goes all the way back to the source and purifies that, so that what flows from it is clean.
In II Peter 1 the Apostle tells us that God has granted to us all that we need in order to become partakers of the divine nature. So it is not that something was removed from man, not that something was changed in the man, but that something was imparted to the man; the divine nature.
Paul says that since we’ve been created brand new in Christ and are indwelt by His Spirit, and have the divine nature imparted to us, we are now empowered to lay aside the old corrupt nature with all its evil practices, and put on the new, and walk accordingly.
So we have entered into a partnership with God in this sense; He purges and empowers, and we put on and practice.
Paul demonstrated this partnership again very effectively in Philippians 2:12,13
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Work, for God works in you toward the same end.
Ignorance of this doctrine leads to error in one of two ways. The first, I’ve already mentioned. It is where the Christian thinks he is to sit back and let God make the changes in him that will make him a better person, so he won’t be so inclined to do those things he did as a pagan. The monster is fed by pithy sayings that really leave too much unsaid to be of any real value; “Let go and let God” for example.
And as I said earlier, to some degree that does happen, especially to the new believer. He will suddenly realize one day that there is some thing he used to do or some thought process that used to possess him, or some reactive behavior to certain incidents in his life, that have not expressed themselves in his person in a long time; and he will realize that God has changed him in that regard.