In Eph 4:22-24, we find one of the best passages on how to live the Christian life. Before we were saved, we did everything “according to the deceitful lusts,” [Eph 4:22] of the old man. After we get saved, we are suddenly supposed to do things differently. And that can be very frustrating.
Growing up in church and in a Christian home, you hear repeated commands and admonitions against doing and saying anything the old man wants. And you are charged to do the things that the new man is supposed to do. By the time children become young adults, you can see why many of them run from God. The old man wants to be free from all these do’s and don’t’s.
But there is something very different in the Christian life than trying to make the old man behave like the new man should. And this difference is clearly seen in our text today. Notice the right process:
Put off the old man – one reason for failure in our Christian lives is that we often only deal with putting off the old man. We keep saying, “You can’t do this or you can’t do that.” That’s tough because the old man seeks immediate gratification. It’s hard to make him not do something he really wants to do. The old man always tries to find a way around the truth, the ordinances, the moral restraints, etc. and feels good when he succeeds in pulling a fast one or getting away with something. The old man only considers his personal gratification and disregards the consequences of, the warnings against, or the long-term costs of his behavior. You don’t see the corruption until later. But Gal 6:7-8 is still true.
Renew the spirit of your mind – this is the step that most of us miss. We think we can tell young people to not act like the old man and to start acting like the new man. But if they are not renewed in the spirit of their mind, if they are not transformed by the renewing of their mind [Rom 12:2], they will just be performing. To be new, there must be a renewing of your mind. This comes from reading the Bible, believing what it says, and walking in the steps that God shows you to take. We must believe that what God says is so. As Eph 4:21, says, hear him and be “taught by him.” This is the key!! It changes your whole way of thinking about life. When you believe what God says, you will be willing to put forth the effort to put on the new man in anticipation of the benefits God promises.
Put on the new man – It’s not enough to just put off the old man. That’s what so many of us do. We say, “I need to quit cussing, or smoking, or drinking, or whatever,” But nothing seems to change. That’s because you must put on the new man. The new man is “created in righteousness and true holiness.” In time, you see these qualities in your own life.
For instance, when you plant a garden, it looks so clean when freshly tilled. You don’t see much because the seeds have not sprouted and the seedlings have not grown. In time, you see sprouts and a little new growth. But you you also see bugs and weeds. You deal with those and then you see flowers, indicating that fruit is on its way. Then the fruit appears. Then the fruit ripens. Then you harvest it and bring it to the table. When you taste the fruit of your efforts you enjoy flavors that cannot be experienced with produce bought in the store.
When you you put off the old man, renew the spirit of your mind and put on the new man, in time you see the fruit of God’s righteousness and holiness in your own life and wonder how in the world something so beautiful could come forth in your life. How is it that God makes these magnificent changes in your life? You don’t know how; you only know that he does. And so, you cultivate a life of prayer, Bible reading, submission to the will of God, obedience, and fellowship with God. These lead to joy unspeakable [1 Pet 1:8], peace that passeth all understanding [Phil 4:6-7], unsearchable riches [Eph 3:8], and, as Paul wrote in 2 Cor 12:4, unspeakable words. Things with the new man become so wonderful you can’t find the words to describe them. And the benefits get better and better with the passing of time.
Conclusion: if you have become frustrated with trying to live the Christian life, you have heard the key that will get you over the frustration and into the joy of the Lord. Among these three points, find the area where you are struggling and follow what God showed you to do.