The new person within us must be brought to maturity through a process of cultivation. As we spend time in God’s Word, we behold His glory and we are changed by His truth. Thereafter we must systematically and progressively deny the demands of the old self and yield instead to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to enlighten our eyes to see what God has for us in the new man.
It’s good to be with you again. All this week I’m dealing with the Bible’s portrait of those two unnamed but very important persons, the old self and the new self. I’ve explained the origin and the nature of both. Briefly I can sum it up this way. First of all, the old self. The old self is the product of deception, Satan’s lie. When we yield to deception it produces lust; that is, perverted, harmful desire. When we yield in turn to lust, it produces sin; and sin, when it takes it’s course, produces death. The old self has two distinctive marks. First, it’s corrupt, spiritually, morally, and physically, it’s corrupt. Second, it’s a rebel. I expressed this by saying, “There’s a rebel inside every one of us.”
Now the new self. The new self is born or created by God. It’s the product of God’s Word, the truth; opposite, of course, to Satan’s deception, a lie. In the new self, God’s purpose and God’s image are restored. The words that describe the nature of the new self are righteousness and holiness. The distinctive marks of this new self are that it’s divine, eternal, incorruptible. It’s the product of a seed, the Word of God, that is divine, eternal, incorruptible. And as is the seed, so is the nature that’s produced out of that seed divine, eternal, incorruptible. In actual fact, it’s the very nature of Jesus Himself.
Now today I’m going to explain how to cultivate the new self, how to bring this new person within us to maturity and the fulfillment of God’s purposes. We’ll return once more to the key passage in Ephesians 4:22-24, but I’m going to emphasize an aspect of these verses which I haven’t dealt with up until now. Paul says:
“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.” (NAS)
Now between putting off the old self and putting on the new self, Paul says there’s something that we have to do. We have to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. Something has to happen in our minds. There has to be a total change in the way we think, and this can only be done by the Holy Spirit. Hence, the reference to the word “spirit.” Whereas our minds have been dominated and controlled by Satan’s lies and Satan’s deceptions, now we have to expose our mind to the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, who brings to us the truth of God. This is right in line with what Paul says also in Romans 12:2:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NAS)
Paul instructs us not to be conformed to this world. That’s not to let the old self have his way in our lives, but to be transformed, to find out the will of God which is the development and maturing of the new self. But he says the way the transformation is going to take place is by the renewing of our minds. So both in Ephesians 4 and in Romans 12, Paul says that one essential phase in this process is the renewing of our minds, which is a work of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:18, Paul further describes what needs to happen. He describes a prayer that he’s praying for the Ephesian Christians and he says:
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling...” (NAS)
Again, the hope of his calling is the full development of the new self and his glorious destiny. But before we can know that, the eyes of our heart have to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. The implication is that our hearts have been in darkness and in ignorance. The Holy Spirit has to bring them the light of truth and through the truth our eyes are enlightened and we can see what God has for us in the new man.
Now another vital principle which Paul brings out and all Scripture brings out is that the Holy Spirit works through the mirror of God’s Word. I want to say that again. The Holy Spirit works through the mirror of God’s Word. This is what James says in James 1:22-25:
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror [Notice, the Word of God, when we hear, is like a mirror that’s held up before us]; for one he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. [Presenting the Word of God to such a person does them no permanent good because though they see their likeness in the mirror, they turn around and walk off and forget what the mirror has shown them and take no appropriate action. The alternative stated is verse 25:] But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.” (NAS)
Though the mirror of God shows us a divine law that’s called “the perfect law” or “the law of liberty,” when we walk in accordance with this law and obey it, we are blessed in what we do. The mirror actually shows us the two natures, the two selfs. It shows us, first of all, what we are by nature: the old self, the criminal Barabbas, the one whose rightful place is on the cross. And then, if we will receive that and believe what God promises, the mirror also shows us what we can become by grace, the new self. This is exactly the same as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror [that’s the Word] the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (NAS)
Notice the word “transformed” again. Paul said we had to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. And our minds are renewed as we look in the mirror of the Word of God and see the Glory of the Lord. That’s what God wants to change us into. And we’re changed into the same image; that is, the image of God restored in the new self, and it’s a process of ongoing victory (“from glory to glory”). And the one who works the process is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, but He only works it while we are looking in the mirror of God’s Word! In this connection, there is one more important principle that we have to understand and apply. It’s this: the new man grows at the expense of the old. In John 3:30, John the Baptist says this about Jesus:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (NAS)
That’s a principle for all of us. He, Jesus, the new self, must increase; but I, the old self, must decrease. Only in proportion as the old self decreases, can the new self increase. There has to be a death before there can be a new life. Now there are two stages in dealing with the old man. The first is that we accept by faith what God says about the old man. You’ll remember that we’ve already seen in Romans 6:6 it says our old man “our old self was crucified with Him.” That’s a fact of history stated in the Word of God. We have to accept it by faith. So Paul goes on to say in Romans 6:11:
“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (NAS)
We accept God’s verdict on the old man which was “execution.” We accept the record of Scripture that the execution took place in Jesus, when Jesus died on the cross. So our faith lays hold of the statements of the Word of God and we consider ourselves to be dead. We consider the old self to be dead, to be executed. And then we consider ourselves to be alive to God in Christ Jesus. Then we reckon on the life and the operation on the new self. Secondly, this has to be acted out progressively. We reckon it to be true once and for all, but we work it out in our living progressively. So Paul goes on in Romans 6:12-13:
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (NAS)
There’s a negative and a positive in that. First of all, the negative. We have to deny the demand of the old self. The old self will try to go on acting as if he still had rights! As if we still had to yield to him, consider him, and let him have his way. But we have to say no to the old self. Jesus said the first step in following Him was to deny ourselves. “To deny” means to say no. So, every time the old self tries to reassert himself and act up and take control, we say, “No. You have no claims. You’re dead. I don’t yield to you.” That’s the negative.
The positive is we present ourselves to the Holy Spirit. We yield our members. Every part of our body, every part of our personality, we yield to the Holy Spirit. That’s the positive. The Holy Spirit has to be allowed to come in and take control. The result is obedience. That’s the way the new man operates, the new self, by obedience. He’s the opposite of the rebel. The rebel was expressed in disobedience. The new self is expressed in obedience, through yielding to the Holy Spirit.
Well, our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. We’ll continue with this theme of the old self and the new self. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking about God’s program for the new self.