"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, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Ephesians 4:22-24)After hearing and learning of Christ we are brought to the point of choosing. Any learning that is of any real importance in our lives is always a learning that leads us to a decision. It is leaning that convicts the mind and illuminates our soul of possibilities previously unimagined or for which we felt hopeless to obtain. Knowledge informs but learning inspires, prompts, and directs us to choose a new and higher way of living. Those who have learned and heard of Christ have passed beyond just knowing about Him to wanting to be like Him.
This learning of Christ leads us to consider how we shall become like Him and how we shall fully attain to the life He has called us to live. For this, three things are required. The first step is to lay aside our former manner of life. Having done so, and now looking back, it seems strange that so often we seek to save our old way of life even after coming to Christ for, in reality, it was not much of a life worth retaining. Paul tells us that our old way of living is a life of corruption. Our submission to our flesh with its lusts and deceit works within our lives corruption. This Greek word means to spoil or wear away. It is the root of the Greek word that describes a body decaying in the ground. Our old life is nothing but a decaying corps for which little remains but for it to be buried. Paul says that we must "lay aside" our former life. In our sanctification before God, there is that which He does and there is that which we must do. God has made us able to break free from our former patterns of living, but it is still up to us to choose to do so. We must take the initiative and we must decide to be done with our former ways and to lay them aside that we might adopt a new way of living; that we may learn a new conversation of life.
Secondly, Paul says that we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind. This is the only place where Paul speaks of the "spirit of our mind." In doing so, I do not believe that He is speaking of some actual spirit but in the disposition or working of our mind. While this Greek word does mean "spirit" if can also mean "breath" or any "current of air." It refers to an active force of life; to a moving, breathing, and possessing nature. When we come to Christ we are accustom to our way of thinking. We see ourselves and the world around us as we have been conditioned to through our learning and exposure to life. However, often our way of thinking is different from God's way of thinking. We think as earth bound creatures who have spent a life time apart from God. Now that we have been brought into union with Him and given a life from above, it is time to shed our human way of thinking for God's way of thinking. Such a change in mind can be transformative in our lives. Paul calls us to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) In saying this it is important to note that Paul speaks of a transformation in our minds, not our emotions. It seems today that most people are concerned with feeling right instead of thinking right. However, the life that God is calling us to is a life of transforming the rational part of our minds; to learn to think, reason, and understand according to the true rational nature of God rather than according to the deceit perpetuated upon us by our flesh and lusts.
Finally, Paul tells us to put on our new self. God has created for us a new life that has been created in His image; according to His righteousness and holiness of the truth. It is interesting that, in this, God has given us a choice. God did not recreate us in righteousness and holiness, but rather He has created for us a new life that is in accordance with His image and now He invites us to put it on, or as the Greek implies, to cloth ourselves with this new life. In another place Paul writes, "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." (Philippians 2:12-13) Our life with God is a partnership with God. God is working within us to produce the will and desire for good, but it is us who must act upon this grace to actually accomplish those things which God is enabling us to do. For our participation in this new life we are wholly dependent upon the grace of God, yet the grace of God is not enough to ensure our actual apprehension of this new life. We ourselves must act upon this grace to put off the old and to put on the new. It is also important to understand the necessity of putting on once we have put off. Many people try to reform their lives by simply putting off some bad habit or behavior, only to once again find themselves falling back into that old habit or a new habit that is worse than the first. Jesus spoke of those who had daemons cast out, saying that after they had been cast out they return to find, "it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first." (Luke 11:25-26) If we simply put off an old behavior without replacing it with a new behavior then we are destined to fail and to fall back into our old sinful habits. It is only when we replace the old man with the new man that we can walk in and sustain ourselves in our new life in Christ. Putting off, changing the way we think, and putting on are the keys to growing and living in our new life in Christ.