Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV): You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
When God says in His word, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17), He means it literally! When someone truly puts their trust in Him, truly repents, truly opens themselves to the continual leading of the Holy Spirit, it changes everything. That person’s mindset instantly changes to one of submission to God’s will and obedience to His commands – a transformation of their mind (Romans 12:2); a revelation of worldview. A complete change of character happens as well. Instead of self-centeredness and the decisions that come from pursuing one’s own best interests and pleasures, a person’s character is changed to one of genuine holiness and righteousness, loving God with all of one’s being, and one’s neighbor as oneself.
Far too many today are content with some kind of “positional holiness” that is never even intimated in the Bible. People are never what they are not. When God says that a person is to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7), He doesn’t mean that it’s okay to continue sinful behaviors and claim to be holy because of a relationship to Him. He is the Lord who actually makes people holy (Leviticus 20:8, Acts 15:8-9). He actually makes people into new creations from the inside out.
God’s expectation when someone comes to Him (and many have “said the prayer” without actually coming to Him) is that they will put their trust in Him for salvation, turn solidly away from their old life, and remove all vestiges of the old life by an act of the will. Think “taking out the trash.” No one leaves the garbage in their home and then simply declares that their home is “trash free” because they want it to be. To have a trash free home requires that we actually, physically, exert our wills and take out the trash! For us to really be holy, for our hearts to really be trash free, we have to exercise our will and actually get rid of the trash in our lives – anything that is corrupted or that will pull us back into impurity must be removed by an act of the will. That is why the Ephesians burned their scrolls with their charms and spells on them (Acts 19:19), and why new Christians in many lands remove and burn their idols and charms – they are taking out the trash; removing by an act of the will all of the vestiges of their old lives. But too many leave their old life intact, and try to add Christianity as an overlay to a sinful, self-centered, self-indulgent, non-God-focused life. And they are not transformed.. They quickly slide back into their old ways, and away from eternal life.
And the putting off of the old life must immediately be followed by putting on the new. The new disciple must immediately begin to learn from God and His word. They must begin to act as Christians (and God’s Spirit will move them to do just that), and to obey all that God has commanded. Again, far too many don’t exert their wills in putting on the new life, and they end up returning to their old lives, their old patterns of behavior, their old sins. (2 Peter 2:20-22 tells us that when we do that, we are worse off than we were before!)
God has provided all that is necessary for people to become genuinely holy: a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for their past sins, and His Holy Spirit to change their hearts, making them genuinely righteous and holy. Applying those things to a life is the responsibility of each person.
Father, thank You for all You have done for us. Now help us, Lord, to do our part – to put off our old self, and to consciously put on the new self that You have enabled us to be, so that we can be Your genuinely holy people. Amen.