Yesterday I mowed my lawn. Not that you need to know that, but I want to make a point. When finished, I came inside the cool air-conditioned house, drank a large and cold glass of ice water while sitting there waiting for my heart rate to come down and my sweat to stop coming out.
There is one thing that needs to happen after mowing the lawn and soaking my tee shirt with sweat. I need to take off the sweaty clothes, wash with soap, and put on some fresh clothing before getting anywhere near my wife much less sleep in the same bed with her.
This is what Paul is trying to teach us in Ephesians 4:17-32. He is telling his readers and us that we have two choices every day in our Christian life. And for those of us who have become addicted to sexual sin these truths are critical for us to understand but are not easy to figure out. Paul writes…
“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.”
When Paul mentions the “Gentiles” he is referring to the lost…those who are not saved and still living a life separated from God and dead in their sins. Their thinking and efforts are futile.
Their understanding is darkened, and they are alienated from the true life that only God can give. They are ignorant. Their hearts are hardened, and they have become callous because they have given themselves up to sensuality, greed, and every kind of impurity.
It is important for us to not liken our battle with sexual sin and temptation to those who do not know God and readily give themselves over to sexual sin because they do not know that it is sinful. To them, it is just giving themselves over to the lusts of their flesh and living that way as the normal life they are living.
Does our addiction to sexual sin indicate that we are not saved or have lost our salvation? Well, that depends. If you have given yourself over to sexual sin and that is the way you want to live that would indicate that perhaps you are not born again. However, if you are convicted that sexual sin is wrong and are working to stop giving yourself over to it…that would indicate that you are born again, you know sexual sin is wrong, and you want to stop doing it.
Notice what Paul says next about what we need to be doing because we are Christians and followers of Jesus.
“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,”
What does it mean to “put off your old self? When Paul uses the phrase “old self” he is referring to who you used to be before you became born again and have gone from being dead in your sins to being alive in Jesus. The old self is the old you who was not saved. We are told in Romans 6 that we were crucified with Christ…because we were in Him, and He is our representative. So, we are included in His death and resurrection and our old self was crucified and buried and through the resurrection, our new self has been created.
Notice what the passage says about this…
“…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.”
I know it seems confusing but look at it like this. When Christ died, He died for the sins of the world and the penalty for our sins was paid for and that payment was accepted by God so that all of our sins have been paid for. Our old self…or the person we were when we did not know God and were lost in our sins has been crucified…is dead, buried, and gone.
However, as born-again Christians, we need to put on our new clothes…our new self every day. The phrase to “put off” is in the aorist tense meaning it is a deliberate action in the past and has already been done. The phrase “put on” is also in the aorist tense and refers to the new self or new creation we are in Christ.
The putting off and putting on are actions that have already happened to us spiritually…but the problem is it is not automatically accomplished in our lives in the here and now. There is a decision we need to make every day. Am I going to get out of bed and put on the old sweaty shirt I used mowing the lawn…or a fresh clean shirt? Am I going to be walking in the flesh…or am I going to be walking in the Spirit?
That is the choice we are to be making every day of our lives. And when we are reminding ourselves that our old self has been taken off and our new self has been put on then we can expect to live a life in true righteousness and holiness as the text tells us.
Therefore, all of us should begin each day making this decision. Who is going to be in charge? Who is going to make the decisions we all must make each day? Are we reminding ourselves that our old self was crucified with Christ and needs to be left in the dirty clothes hamper or grave? Are we going to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, hold and acceptable in His sight…as commanded in Romans 12:1-2.
Are we going to ask the Spirit to fill us and guide us through the day so that we are living the life God has for us…walking in purity away from our sexual brokenness? And is anyone walking with us each day so that we have the help we need when we are being tempted.
You can choose to be a lone sheep, or you can stay with the flock under the protection of the Good Shephard. Your choice…daily!