“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
It is a truism that our minds are a major battlefield on which satan attacks. It cannot be emphasised enough, I don’t believe, just how important it is for us to have our minds focused and set upon the Word of God. It is the Word which allows us to cleanse our ways and it is the Word which will turn us from sin (Psalm 119:9,11). Having our minds changed to conformity with the Word of God, from which every aspect of His will for us derives, is a necessity, but also an on-going process. And this is what the aforementioned passages illustrates so succinctly. Just a couple of verses before, in v. 20, Paul tells us, in contrast to the lost who are alienated from the life that is in God, who are past feeling, who have given themselves over to work all uncleanness with lascivious, that *we* have not so LEARNED Christ. “Learned” Christ. That word is translated from manthano, a prolonged form of the more common matheo, which denotes a pupil, one who learns and understands from a teacher. In this case, we are told that we have learned from the Master. What and how did we learn? Well, the doctrine of God from the Word of God. It is from the Word of God that we learn how to think rightly so that we might live rightly.
The truth is in Jesus, whose Spirit inspired the Words of Scripture which have been preserved for us to this present day (and without preservation, we might as well not even talk about inspiration). So, it is from these words that we learned to put off our former ways, the customs and conversation we had before we were saved and taught. It is from the Word that our minds are RENEWED so as to allow us to even be able to grow in grace and knowledge. In Titus 3:5, Paul writes that with and as part of the act of salvation, the Holy Ghost washed, regenerates, and RENEWS us. The first step to a renewed mind is salvation.
But that’s not the end of the story. In v. 24, the Word tells us that not only are we to put off the old man, but we are also to put on the new man. Now, here’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, for Scripture indicates that we ourselves have a role to play in the process of sanctification – not that we are able to sanctify ourselves, but rather we YIELD ourselves to sanctification.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
He doesn’t say work FOR, mind you, but work OUT your own salvation. This is translated from a word that means to bring something to fruition or completion which has already been started. It is talking about our sanctification, that process which started with our justification by grace, and which will be consummated by our eventual glorification and changing to be like Him which will occur at the rapture of the saints of God. Notice, however, that the reason we can be sanctified is because it is God who works in us both to be willing and able to grow in grace and knowledge. The process of sanctification is still God’s work, but requires our submissive acquiescence to Him (which, incidentally, seems to put a kink in the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace, does it not?)
This then is why, in Ephesians 4:24, we are told to “put on” the new man, a command which we are to follow. The purpose for following this command is that we might be made more like unto our Lord in righteousness and holiness. God is a holy God, and wants His born-again, blood-bought children to be holy like as He is (I Peter 1:15-16). And this comes from applying the Scriptures to our lives, by putting things that are displeasing and contrary to His Word from us, and by embracing those things which are in line with Scripture. And that, in turn, requires the renewing of our minds so that our thinking will be straightened out. We have to allow God’s Word to change us and mold us and remake us into what He wants us to be. This won’t happen until our minds and hearts are submitted to Him and open to His tender proddings and calling.
Our minds are under attack from every side by satan. Our culture is one which offers distractions, enticements, temptations, pitfalls, ensnaring traps which can destroy our testimonies and the work God is trying to accomplish in us. But, greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, so if we’re faithful to allow God to freely work to renew our minds day by day, we CAN have the victory!