Ephesians 4: 17 – 5: 2
Now I say this 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.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one 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 might 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 but put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Many of us feel frustrated, if not defeated at times, because our lives are not working as well as we like. We are confused. We thought in becoming a Christian, knowing Jesus would give us that positive sense of wellbeing we do not seem to have. In our walk, our manner of life as the text describes it, we struggle in our view of ourselves and how we handle our lives and relationships. When we need to make choices that turn out well for us and our loved ones, we do just the opposite. We seem trapped in a cycle of bad choices and negative feelings about ourselves and lives. The Bible tells us we are new creations in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5: 17 affirms, that as new creations in Christ, the old is gone and the new is here. Why does it seem that so much of the old still controls us? We need to learn to live each day in the full power of the new creation we are in Christ.
Our ministry of counseling, coaching, teaching, and spiritual direction seeks to help Christians make needed changes so that they do live as those new creations. Our approach is based on Ephesians 4: 17 – 5: 2. This passage clarifies what our God gives us and what we need to do to live as truly new creations. In making us new creations, the text says we now have a new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, our God gives, grants us four changes from what we were. Each involve an old self we put off and that new self we put on.
- We are granted a new source of truth.
Our old understanding of ourselves and life is described in Ephesians 4 as futile: in the futility of their minds. It is futile because it is based on falsehoods. We believe lies and that never works. Jesus described this in Matthew 7: 24 – 27. He said that those, who build their lives ignoring his truths, build their house on sand. That foundation cannot stand the storms of life and falls.
Our new source of truth to understand ourselves and our lives comes from: the way you learned Christ – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. This new understanding undergirds the new self we put on. In contrast to the falsehoods of the old self, verse 25 states, we operate from God’s truth. It builds on the rock and can stand in the midst of any storm.
To put off the old self we reject the lies we have believed. We put on our new self which makes a priority of filling our minds with God’s truth.
- We are granted a new perspective.
Our old perspective is called: They are darkened in their understanding. The before Christ, the old self walks through life in the dark. It is unable to see clearly where it is going and why. It is lost.
God grants the new self a new perspective that sees clearly, that walks in the light. Later in Ephesians 5 we are told: For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true) [5: 8, 9]. Our new perspective sees clearly why life works and what to avoid that would keep life from working. It is not lost, but can find what is good, right, and true. From this new perspective, we see ourselves through God’s eyes, we assess and evaluate all of life from his point of view. According to Hebrews 12: 2. 3, fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We then, throw off [put off] everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out [by God] for us [Hebrews 12: 1].
We put on that new perspective by never losing sight of Jesus and the eternal destination to which he is leading us. We, as he so often called us to do in the gospels, simply follow him.
- We are granted a new mindset.
A mindset is the repeated way we evaluate what we see. We interpret what happens to us in characteristic ways of thinking, ways that we have done for years. That way of understanding what happens and how to respond to it becomes a set thought pattern we habitually follow. It becomes an automatic response. Our old self has an old mindset. It evaluates and responds to what happens without any consideration of or focus on God. The text says the old self is, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them. All we have is our own wisdom, strength, and will. More often than not, these fail us and we end up with outcomes we do want, or fail to gain outcomes we do want. We need new mindsets that help us make better choices that produce better outcomes.
Our new self has a new mindset granted to us through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit: 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. If our old mindset was created through repetition of unhelpful thought patterns, our new mindset is strengthened as the Spirit renews our minds day by day with helpful, God focused thought patterns.
We put on and operate from our new mindset every time we focus on God’s truth, see ourselves and our situation through his eyes, and choose how he would respond. The more we do this, the stronger that new mindset becomes and our old mindset influences us less and less. The inevitable outcome of this progression touches our hearts.
- We are granted a new heart.
Ezekiel 36: 25 – 27 points out what God has done: I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws…you will be my people and I will be your God.
The old self’s heart is hard: due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. The old self heart of stone is closed, unresponsive to God, and, when it comes right down to it, unresponsive to anyone else. This old self, hard heart, only cares about what it wants. It seeks only to gratify itself with no regard to the rights or susceptibilities of others. The text describes it as callous and greedy. Our attitudes and action become what is listed in this text as: bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor[fighting] and slander [abuse], with all malice. We lie and steal and we use words to wound others, tearing them down, not building them up. While for many of us, our actions are not as extreme as the text describes, we can see a kernel of truth in this, and we have to admit, at times, we act in these ways, especially under stress.
As new creations in Christ, we have been granted a new heart. We are by contrast: kind to one another, tenderhearted [compassionate], forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. We choose to walk in a Christ-like, sacrificial love as 5: 1, 2 state. Our new heart more than anything else shows that we have: put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
We put on a new heart every time we allow our hearts to be touched by the love of God and the needs of others. Psalm 86 speaks of having and undivided heart that walks in God’s truth and praises him.
Filling our imagination with God’s liberating truth as the source of our understanding; gaining, therefore, a new – seeing through God’s eyes – perspective; strengthening a God focused mindset, result in a reverent, God glorifying, undivided heart that is totally captured by God’s excellence and love. We gain a heart that daily chooses to put off that old corrupt, deceitful self, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
We put off that old corrupt, deceitful self because our loving God has, by his saving work through Jesus Christ, has made us new creations. The great hope we have is that we can put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. The word picture, suggested in the act of putting off the old self and putting on the new self, is the choice to change our clothing. The word for put on can also be translated clothe or dress oneself. Galatians 3: 27 uses this imagery: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ [ESV]. The NIV translates this verse: for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
The image of putting on a new self, clothing ourselves with Christ is a two- sided coin. Through the saving, reconciling work of Christ we have a new garment to put on. That garment is wonderfully described in Revelation 19: 6 –9:
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us exult and give him the glory. For the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready:” it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure” – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of
And the angel said to me, “Write this: ‘Blessed are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Because Christ chose us to be his Bride he gives us, the text says was granted, a beautiful wedding gown to wear to the marriage supper of the Lamb. That beautiful gown is hanging in our closet right now. Our response can only be:
I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels. [Isaiah 61: 11].
The second side of the coin in Ephesians 4 commands us to put on that new self, that beautiful gown, to wear it today. We can act today after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. We can look like Jesus. It is as if we get up in the morning and go to our closet. We see hanging there two sets of clothing. One is the old corrupt, deceitful – dare I say, the rotting — garments of our old self. The second is the beautiful wedding dress our bridegroom granted us. The question is, which garment will we put on today. That difference is described in Psalm 34: 4 – 10:
I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints. for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
God in Christ clothes us with a garment that takes away our guilt and shame. In the garden, God replaced the fig leaves Adam and Eve fashioned to desperately hide their nakedness. He killed and animal and shed its blood and made them garments of skin. This action prefigured the death and shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross to remove our guilt and shame. When God provides a covering for us, it works. The garment he gives us also is incredibly beautiful. We need to see and put on that new garment, that beautiful wedding dress that is hanging in our closet. We no longer need to live out of that shame-based, old self perspective. which is corrupt through deceitful desires. I no longer strive in my own feeble wisdom and strength, too often operating deceitfully because I am ashamed of the ways I feel I have to connive or underhandedly manipulate to get the outcomes I desire. Rather than motivated by fear, I am motivated by faith in all God did and is doing to deliver me and provide for me.
There are two final “puts” that tell us how. We put away and we then put in their place. Ephesians 4: 25 – 32 describe what is involved.
In verse 25 we are told, first of all, that there are old self perspectives and mindsets based on falsehoods we are to put away and to put in their place new perspectives and mindsets based on God’s truth. This is a moment by moment decision of what we believe is true about ourselves and a given situation that challenges us. Will we see it through God’s eyes, with God’s heart and respond as he would?
Next, we are commanded to put away sinful anger, lingering resentments, and put in their place compassionate ways of dealing with our anger. Only someone who knows they are Christ’s beloved bride can do this.
We are then commanded to put away any form of theft, all the ways we can rob someone else to satisfy ourselves. We put in its place honest efforts to gain something we can share to meet others’ needs, like our loving God who gives and sacrifices himself to bless us.
We put away corrupting, old self, talk that tears others down and put in its place only words that build others up, even if they do not deserve it, which is grace.
We put away old self feelings of bitterness and wrath [or rage] and destructive anger and malice, and put away old self behaviors of clamor [fighting] and slander [abuse] – all feelings and the resulting actions that flourish when we resent how life and people treat us, and more to the point, how our efforts to feel good about ourselves and our lives prove futile. We put in their place kindness, being tenderhearted [compassionate], and forgiving. We can do this because we know God’s forgiveness, our sin no longer keeps us from our bridegroom.
These daily choices to put away everything not reflective of our new, created after the likeness of God self, and to put in their place daily choices that do reflect our new self, righteous and holy, enable us, as Ephesians 5. 1 says, to be imitators of God, and knowing how much we are dearly loved, walk in Christ-like, sacrificial love.
The counseling, coaching, and mentoring ministry of New Creation Christian Counseling is designed to bring about the life transforming changes described in Ephesians 4 and 5. We assist Christians and those seeking God to take the God’s truths and learn how to apply them in way that make a difference in how they see themselves and how they approach their lives and the people they love. Central to this process is developing new God informed mindsets. Our long-standing mindsets control how we respond to situations and people. If our current mindsets defeat us, we need to learn how to change them. This is the skill we teach and the process we work through with clients to achieve victory over those old, unhelpful patterns. This is the vision God gave us for this ministry of compassion.
In giving us a new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, God restores us to his original design. When we are willing and able to put off the old self, and put on the new self; when we put away all old, hurtful ways of doing life; when we put in their place new, God inspired ways of doing life, we can recapture our true self. We become all he created each of us to uniquely be, so we can do all he calls us to do. As beloved children of their Heaven Father, we eagerly want to be like him and walk in Christ-like love.
Copyright 2017 G Brenton Mock